The tour lasted almost three hours. The Presidents were given two-volume albums describing the museum’s collections in memory of their visit to the Hermitage. Lyudmila Putin and Laura Bush were given silk scarves with hand-embroidered “Hermitage” scenes of flowers and parrots in the style of Dutch paintings.
The walk of the distinguished guests through the halls of the Winter Palace was crowned with a breakfast in the Arap Hall which served as the main dining room in pre-revolutionary times. At present the hall features exhibits devoted to the history of Russian culture.
At one point during their excursion to the museum the Presidents talked with journalists. They expressed satisfaction with the results of the talks held in Moscow the day before.
President Putin also told journalists that Russia was taking steps to prevent the further escalation of the Indian-Pakistani conflict. The Russian head of state expected to meet with Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and hoped that the meeting would provide an opportunity to discuss the problems in the relations between India and Pakistan and prevent the escalation of tensions in the South Asian region. Mr Putin expressed regret over the fact that both countries continued missile tests aggravating the conflict.