Rice meets rights activists on last day in Moscow

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met NGOs and Russian human rights groups on the final day of her two-day visit to Moscow. The meetings come a day after unsuccessful talks with Russian leaders over U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in E

In an interview today, Dr. Rice expressed concern over rapid growth in Russia's military spending, but overall has described U.S.-Russia relations as positive.

She has also held meetings at the US Embassy with representatives of Russian non-governmental organisations and has pledged support for Russian rights activists.

Dr Rice's colleague on the trip, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is planning to address an audience of military students at the Academy of Russia's General Staff.

As expected, there was no breakthrough at Friday's 2+2 talks, when Rice and Gates met their Russian counterparts in an effort to resolve differences over U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.  Moscow strongly opposes the proposals, saying interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic would threaten Russia's security.

However, Yury Rogulyov, the director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt fund for U.S. studies at Moscow State University, believes the outcome of the talks is less important than the fact that both sides are willing to continue co-operation.

“The decision to set up a missile shield in Europe was made by the U.S. unilaterally several years ago, and the process went too far. The negotiations started at a late stage, making it difficult to turn the process back. So the outcome of the negotiations was predicted.  The problem itself is evidently very complicated. But what’s more important at the moment is that both sides are making proposals for future talks,” said Mr Rogulyov.