President Bush shakes hands with American artist of Russian descent Mikhail Shemyakin as Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on smiling yesterday at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg . The two presidents and their wives watched a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the theater.

Putin treats Bush to Russian culture

Cox News Service

St. Petersburg , Russia - A day after summitry focused on scaling back Cold War-era nuclear arms, President Bush and Russia 's Vladimir Putin shifted gears and devoted yesterday to high culture and easy repartee.

Hosting Bush and first lady Laura Bush on this port city's 299th anniversary, Putin and his wife,

Lyudmilla, treated the couple to a night at the ballet, followed by a twilight boat tour along the scenic Neva River .

The couples watched a Russian classic - Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" - at the 140-year-old Mariinsky Theater, where the ballet was first performed.

Later, dining on black caviar and roast beef, the couples boated along the Neva and gazed along the banks

at landmarks set in place by Peter the Great, who founded the city that would become imperial Russia 's window on the West.

Reprising the show they put on for high school students near Bush's Texas ranch in tiny Crawford last fall, Bush and Putin - or George and Vladimir as they sometimes call each other - answered questions from 200 students at St. Petersburg State University .

- -, 2019