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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Putin in Scottish capital
President Putin with Jack McConnell and Prince Andrew
President Putin with Jack McConnell and Prince Andrew
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has been in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, on the second day of his state visit to Britain.

Mr Putin, accompanied by his wife Lyudmila, toured Edinburgh Castle before addressing leading public, business and cultural figures.

Hundreds of people turned out to greet the Russian dignitary who addressed a gathering at the Signet Library.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Putin said he was eager to visit Scotland, as he "feels at home here."

British officials said Mr Putin had asked to visit Edinburgh because of the contribution of Scottish architects in 18th century Russia.

It is the first state visit to Britain by a Russian leader for more than 100 years.

Mr Putin was welcomed by Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell who said: "His visit clearly demonstrates that the post-devolution profile of Scotland has dramatically increased.

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and his wife, Lyudmila at Heathrow Airport, London

"This is something that we must build on. I believe that Scotland is rediscovering its international identity.

"We are becoming more outward looking and more confident in the contribution we can make within Europe, just as Russia too has become a modern, outward looking country engaging in Europe."

Mr and Mrs Putin watched a display of traditional Scottish dancing at Edinburgh Castle.

The president then met Scottish leaders, including Mr McConnell, while Mrs Putin visited the National Museum of Scotland.

Last weekend, members of the Scottish Parliament called on Mr McConnell to raise the issue of alleged human rights abuses against Chechens when he met Mr Putin.

Solidarity call

In a speech to an invited audience made up of guests from the scientific, academic, business, medical, administration and art sectors of Scotland at Edinburgh's Signet Library, the president spoke of the wide-ranging problems facing the modern world.

Listing issues such as threats of ethnic conflict, organised crime, international terrorism, mass epidemics and weapons of mass destruction, he said the best way to respond was through solidarity.

He told the audience: "We should adequately respond to this challenge and the most adequate mechanism to react is solidarity.

"That can only be done by co-operation and trust.

"Our views on many issues are close and coincide."

Man being arrested
A protester attempted to stop the president's car
He said that while there had been "problems" relating to the Iraqi conflict and while the countries do have differences of opinion they are not significant enough to bring "the world back to crisis".

"Those times have gone," Mr Putin said.

The president's visit has drawn concerns about Russia's human rights record in Chechnya.

Amnesty International and several MSPs have protested about reports of torture, rape and executions.

One demonstrator, a 24-year-old man, was arrested after throwing himself in front of the president's motorcade as it wound its way down the Royal Mile.

Mr Putin will round off the day at a banquet at the Guildhall in London where he will give an address.

President's itinerary

On Thursday, the Russian party will hold talks with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and have lunch at 10 Downing Street.

He was welcomed to the UK on Tuesday by the Queen who joined him in an open top carriage for a ceremonial trip through London to Buckingham Palace.

At a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, Mr Putin said the differences between London and Moscow over the war in Iraq were over, and that the two governments must now press ahead jointly.

In her address, the Queen said a long-term partnership between Britain and Russia was of "profound importance" to both countries.

She said: "My message to you, Mr President, is therefore one of admiration, respect and support."

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Taking a break from diplomacy for sightseeing"

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