The Russian Federation celebrated the opening of its Seattle consulate - the country's third consulate in the United States - last night with a choir singing patriotic American songs at a lavish ceremony in a packed hotel ballroom.
"Nothing any longer prevents Russians and Americans from cooperating in all spheres of human endeavor," said Georgi Vlaskin, a career Russian foreign-service officer who will serve as the country's first consul general in Seattle.
Cash-strapped Russia has no permanent offices for the consulate - which will represent the Moscow government in 11 Western states - and is looking for volunteers to aid its bare-bones staff.
The other Russian consulates, in New York and San Francisco, were formed by the Soviet Union before it split up. This is the first one opened exclusively by the Russian republic.