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Russian president at Twitter, off to Silicon Valley

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited microblogging sensation Twitter and sent his first tweet message on Wednesday before heading to U.S. technology hub Silicon Valley, which he sees as a possible model for Russia to follow.

After more than a decade of relative freedom, Russia’s economy is still stuck in its dependence on energy, sending natural gas to Europe and petroleum to the world, prompting Medvedev to look for new industry engines.

His predecessors have tried the same for years, without changing Russia’s reputation for bureaucracy and corruption.

“Hello everyone, I’m at Twitter and sending my first message,” he wrote in his first tweet, in Russian. The short messages broadcast over the Internet have become one of the biggest new technology hits.

“San Francisco is a very beautiful city -- I’m going to Silicon Valley to visit Apple, Yandex and Cisco,” he added in a second.

“You’re a natural,” Biz Stone, founder of the microblogging pioneer, told Medvedev.

U.S. relations with Russia have warmed under President Barack Obama, who has tried to “reset” ties after tenser times under the previous administration.

But the United States still insists Russia must focus on improving protection of intellectual property if it wants to join the World Trade Organization, a subject Obama and Medvedev are expected to discuss later in the week in Washington.

“The Russians are going to have to take the practical steps that any other prospective member of the WTO needs to take,” a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

“This isn’t a favor to us or to the WTO. It’s deeply in the self-interest of protecting the intellectual output, the innovation that comes out of Russian industry,” the person added.

After leaving Twitter’s offices in downtown San Francisco, Medvedev heads south to the Silicon Valley to visit Apple Inc chief Steve Jobs, John Chambers, chief of Cisco Systems Inc, and Russian Web search firm Yandex. He is also scheduled to deliver a speech at Stanford University.

Medvedev has described the Silicon Valley as a place to learn lessons about modernization.

“This experience is not definitive, but it is quite interesting,” local press quoted him as saying before he left Russia. He has said wants to build a high-tech hub outside Moscow with tax breaks and special rules.

Critics want rules that everyone can play by, though. One tech star born in Russia that Medvedev won’t meet is Google Inc founder Sergey Brin, who once called Russia “Nigeria with snow.”

In fact, by some accounts Nigeria is a better place to do business than Russia, which for more than a decade has promised to clean up its business climate and join the World Trade Organization, without success.

The country rated a 2.2 out of 10 in a measure of business confidence in the 2009 Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International -- behind Nigeria. Its best score of the last decade, 2.8 in 2004, tied Russia with Tanzania and Mozambique.

Reporting by Jim Christie, Peter Henderson, Arshad Mohammed and Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Todd Eastham

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