Michelle Obama flair makes few waves in Moscow

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 7, 2009 at 3:12 PM EST

She's wowed crowds in London and Paris but the trademark flamboyance of Michelle Obama, wife of the US president, was nowhere to be seen this week in Moscow, where leaders' spouses get little attention.

After descending from Air Force One on Monday behind her husband and with their two daughters, Michelle Obama virtually disappeared from the public eye as Barack Obama filled Russian television screens, websites and newspapers.

"Russian protocol apparently sought to contain news about Barack Obama's wife so as not to break with Russian political tradition," said Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a social and political commentator.

"In contrast with the West, where Michelle Obama draws practically the same media interest as her husband, Russia remains a patriarchal country, at least on a political level," Kryshtanovskaya said.

Shortly after her arrival on Monday, Michelle Obama was given a Kremlin museum tour by Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The excursion received little media attention, although a brief blurb and small photograph of the two first ladies walking side by side was published by the popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.

On Tuesday, the US first lady visited a local school and orphanage before attending a music and folk-dancing concert, along with her daughters Sasha and Malia and over 500 Russian children.

Dressed in an ivory and black sheath dress, she also attended a speech that her husband gave for graduates of a Moscow economics school.

But her programme in Moscow was subdued and received scant media attention in Russia, by comparison with her high-profile shopping excursion in Paris and visit to a London pub earlier this spring.

The snippets of television news footage showing her on the first day of the US-Russia summit were confined mainly to her accompanying Barack Obama as he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and strolling with the Medvedevs at their country residence.

"The Soviet tradition of keeping the private lives of heads of state in the dark still dominates Russian political protocol," Kryshtanovskaya said.

The Obamas were due to depart Russia early Wednesday for Italy, where the US first lady's flair may capture more public attention.




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