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    German chancellor arrives in Moscow to meet with Putin, Medvedev

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    Merkel, the leader of Russia's largest European trading partner, will hold talks with outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev, who won just over 70% of the vote in last Sunday's presidential elections.

    MOSCOW, March 8 (RIA Novosti) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Moscow for a series of important meetings.

    Merkel, the leader of Russia's largest European trading partner, will hold talks with outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev, who won just over 70% of the vote in last Sunday's presidential elections. Medvedev is to be inaugurated as Russia's new president on May 7.

    Merkel is to discuss the Nord Stream pipeline project and international issues such as Kosovo and Iran during her visit, a Kremlin source said Friday.

    "The meetings are expected to include discussions of bilateral relations between Russia and Germany, emphasizing the need to ensure their continuity and further advancement, as well as compare positions on pressing international issues," the source said.

    Russian-German trade hit a record $52.8 billion in 2007, with German investment in Russia increasing 70%, year on year, to $3.4 billion, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said on Thursday.

    "The most important task today is to increase the number of joint projects; first of all, in the sphere of advanced technology, including energy, aviation, outer space, car-making, transport, telecommunications and communications," Kamynin said.

    The Russian diplomat said the Nord Stream pipeline, which Russian energy giant Gazprom is building together with Germany's E.ON under the Baltic Sea to pump Russian natural gas to Germany, was a priority project in bilateral cooperation. The project is also designed to enhance Europe's energy security.

    Russia and Germany held five top-level bilateral meetings last year.

    Russia and several former Soviet republics celebrate International Women's Day as a national holiday on March 8.

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