MOSCOW — Russia's leaders Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev rolled back the years Tuesday as they took a round of May Day drinks in a Moscow pub popular for beer-drinking since Soviet times.
The Zhiguli pub just off the central Arbat street is a Moscow institution, known for its cheap and plentiful supplies of beer on tap and copious portions of greasy stomach-lining food.
"I'd never been here before," admitted outgoing president Medvedev as he entered the pub with president-elect Putin after they jointly led the biggest May Day celebrations in Moscow for years.
"The one thing that is really different from before (in Soviet times) is that there are many different kinds of beer. Then, there was just one," said Medvedev, apparently fascinated by the array of beers on offer.
After ordering their beers they then went to the self-service counter to take their plates of food -- Putin went for boiled potatoes with cod and Medvedev for fried potatoes and lamb sausage.
Joined by a handful of MPs and trade union leaders, state television showed them toasting May Day with mugs of beer at a table laden with traditional Russian salty snacks beloved by beer drinkers across the country.
Delicacies included the salty dried fish Vobla, which Russians insist is an indispensable accompaniment to beer but many outsiders find impossible to stomach.
"Come more often!" Russian news agencies quoted a waitress as saying as the group left the establishment after about an hour. "I fear people are not going to understand it if I come here often," Medvedev joked in reply.
However both of Russia's leaders received top-level loyalty cards as a parting gift in the hope of a swift return.