Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to call President Bush Wednesday to offer his condolences on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. Mr. Putin has become a key U.S. ally in the international war on terrorism, and on the day of the attacks last year, he was also the first foreign leader to speak to President Bush and offer his sympathy. During a ceremony marking the anniversary, the U.S. ambassador to Russia praised the country's contribution to the war on terrorism.
A Russian choir sang God Bless America as Americans and Russians joined together at the American ambassador's residence to pay their respects to those who died one year ago.
The U.S. ambassador, Aleksander Vershbow, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and gave a special thanks to Russia for helping in the war against terrorism. "The Russian Federation was prominent among those nations providing humanitarian and medical assistance to the Afghan people and working with the United States as a strategic partner in rooting out international terrorists who had killed so many people in Russia, the United States and elsewhere," he said.
The event was attended by many of the Russia's political elite, including Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.
Mr. Mamedov pointed out that both the United States and Russia have been victims of terrorism. In September of 1999, Russia was rocked by a series of apartment blasts, which killed hundreds of people. But Mr. Mamedov said Russian resolve to hunt down terrorists was stronger than ever. "Together we will stand in this historic battle against terrorism," he said. "And together we are certain we will prevail, prevail in bringing all culprits and cold-blooded murderers to real justice. They can run but they can't hide."
Mr. Mamedov's strong support for the United States reflect the huge change that Russian American relations have undergone since September 11. Moscow offered its full support to Washington, not even objecting when the United States based troops in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
But many in Russia have been opposed to such moves. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was at the ceremony on Wednesday. He said he is worried about the course the United States is now charting.
Mr. Zyuganov said that trouble, such as the terrorist attacks, usually brings people closer. However, he said he is worried about what he described as a tendency by the United States to dictate their conditions to the rest of the world.
But Mr. Zyuganov said while he may disagree with the American political leadership, he felt it was important to show his sympathy towards the American people.
Many people brought flowers to express their sympathy.