- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian officials and lawmakers lauded Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday as the start of what they hope will be a period of better ties with the United States.

In Moscow and other Russian cities, revelers were gathering for parties to celebrate Trump’s inauguration as bar and club owners sought to cash in on public excitement.

Trump’s promises to fix the ravaged relations with Moscow have elated Russia’s political elite amid spiraling tensions with Washington over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that while Trump’s policy toward Russia is unclear yet, “we are hoping that reason will prevail.”

“We are ready to do our share of the work in order to improve the relationship,” Medvedev said on Facebook.

Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised expectations that he could move to normalize ties, even though he hasn’t articulated a clear Russia policy and some of his Cabinet nominees have made hawkish statements on Russia.

Despite the uncertainty, many Russians looked at Trump’s presidency with high hopes, and some nightclubs and bars called parties to celebrate the inauguration.

At one Moscow nightclub, several dozen people began toasting Trump late Thursday.

Willi Tokarev, 82, a singer who emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1970s and later became a music legend in Russia, topped the entertainment bill with his song “Trumplissimo America!”

“Trump, Trump — symbol of America. Trump, Trump, he’s really president,” the mustachioed Tokarev sang on a tiny stage with the Russian and American flags hanging behind him.

There is a broad feeling in Russia’s political and business elites that relations with Washington can’t get any worse.

Leonid Slutsky, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said in an opinion piece published Friday that “constructive approach and pragmatism have practically disappeared from the Russia-U.S. agenda during Obama’s presidency.”

Medvedev, who served as president in 2008-2012 when Putin had to shift into the premier’s seat due to term limits, presided over a period of warmer ties during Obama’s first term. He sharply criticized the outgoing administration for ruining relations with Moscow by attempting to treat Russia like a “banana republic” and relying on “brute force and sheer pressure” in its dealings with Moscow.

“Often, we may like or dislike some of the policies of our key partners, but we must be aware of our common responsibility,” Medvedev said. “This is something that the Obama administration failed to do.”

He denounced the sanctions the U.S. and its allies imposed on Russia over its action in Ukraine, saying that they “have reduced our cooperation to zero.”

“It doesn’t get any dumber than restricting entry to the United States for the leadership of the Russian parliament, ministers, and businessmen, thus deliberately reducing the possibility of full-fledged contacts and closing the window to cooperation,” he said.

“It is impossible to imagine such actions even during the Cuban missile crisis, even though the situation was much more serious then,” Medvedev said in a reference to the 1962 showdown over Soviet missiles in Cuba that put the world on the verge of a nuclear conflict. “Conclusion: The Obama administration has destroyed relations between the United States and Russia, which are at their lowest point in decades.”

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Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

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