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Putin Helps Open Manhattan Gas Station

September 26, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Vladimir Putin’s ``to do″ list on Friday: meet President Bush at Camp David. Oh yeah, and help open a Manhattan gas station.

Putin and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared at the ceremonial opening of the Lukoil gas station, the sort of event more likely to feature free doughnuts and coffee than a head of state.

Putin made no public remarks and spent only about 10 minutes at the station, shaking hands with equally mum, red-shirted, red-capped employees and touring the ``Kwik Farm″ convenience store.

He did eat a glazed doughnut, at Schumer’s urging. ``And he said it was good,″ the senator added.

Why would Putin squeeze this event into his four-day visit to the United States, where he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations?

The gas station is owned by Lukoil Oil Company, one of Russia’s largest oil producers, which acquired Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc. and its 1,300 stations in 2000. The acquisition was the first time that a Russian oil company had purchased a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Also, the gas station _ which was a Getty station until two weeks ago _ symbolizes a Russian economic presence in the United States at a time when there has been increasing talk of energy cooperation between the two countries, with Russia possibly becoming a key source of oil and gas for U.S. markets.

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