PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has described a 30-minute meeting with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev as a "key milestone" of her official trip to the former Soviet bloc.
Speaking as she returned to Ireland, the president said the five-day visit was "most successful" and would help companies forge new business links.
Mrs McAleese met the Russian president for 30 minutes last week, the first time that the respective nations' heads of state had held official talks. It was followed by an hour-long lunch at which she issued a formal invitation for him to visit Ireland, later saying that Mr Medvedev would be keen to attend a GAA match if he came here.
"This was a most successful visit in economic, cultural and political terms," she said.
"New relationships were formed, and others enhanced, with an important economic partner. My meeting with President Medvedev was a key milestone in terms of deepening the important ties between our countries. The work done in the past week will provide the platform on which the relationship between Ireland and Russia will be further developed to the mutual benefit of both our peoples."
Irish companies signed export deals worth more than €9m during the trade mission, with 30 companies travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg.
Ireland is the eighth-largest investor in the Russian Federation, and some €2bn worth of trade is conducted between both nations yearly.
This figure has grown by 66pc this year, and Irish companies -- especially in the hi-tech sectors -- are keen to cash in on the government's plan to modernise the former communist state.
In a talk to students at St Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance last week, she laid the blame for the financial crisis firmly at the feet of the Government, saying the 'light-touch' regulations espoused during the boom years caused the economic collapse.