Tina Turner, Deep Purple Play Kremlin at Gazprom Birthday Bash

MOSCOW – Tina Turner and Deep Purple performed at OAO Gazprom’s 15th birthday party in the Kremlin yesterday, watched by 6,000 people including company chairman and presidential front-runner Dmitry Medvedev.

“This is simply surreal,” Medvedev, 42, told state television after the concert. “I started listening to Deep Purple when I was 13. At that time their music was banned. I never would have imagined meeting the famous group in the Kremlin palace.”

President Vladimir Putin opened the celebration, thanking Gazprom, which grew out of the Soviet Gas Ministry, for providing a fifth of the federal budget and congratulating it for becoming Europe’s largest company by market value. The five-hour celebration took place amid a threat by state-run Gazprom to cut supplies to Ukraine, the main transit route for its gas shipments to Europe, over an unpaid debt.

Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller left talks with Ukraine’s state energy company NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy to attend the extravaganza, extending the deadline to resolve the debt issue by eight hours, to 6 p.m. Moscow time today.

Putin sat between Miller and Medvedev during the first part of the celebration, which featured domestic stars. Putin, who has overseen more than eight years of uninterrupted economic expansion and enjoys approval ratings of more than 70 percent, picked Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister, as his preferred successor in the March 2 presidential election.

‘Coming-Out Party’

“It’s a great celebration. Gazprom has come of age and they’re throwing their coming-out party as a global energy company,” Ian MacDonald, the head of Chevron Corp.’s Russian operations, said during a break.

Deep Purple came on following the second intermission, after the “Gazprom” sign over the stage had been removed. Lead singer Ian Gillan, 62, sang barefoot, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. The heavy metal band gave a private performance for Medvedev and other senior Kremlin officials in June, the Moscow Times reported last month. He slipped backstage after yesterday’s 40-minute set.

Turner, 68, flew to Moscow directly from Los Angeles, where she’d appeared with Beyonce at the Grammy Awards the previous night. Together with two back-up singers and three dancers, Turner sang nine hits in the Kremlin’s Palace of Congresses, where the Communist Party of the Soviet Union once held its conventions.

When Turner asked the audience: “Is everybody all right?” her question was met with silence. Most of the guests were middle-aged managers from Gazprom’s Moscow headquarters who remained in their seats during the show.

Opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky opened the party. Pop diva Alla Pugacheva, 58, took the stage later, luring First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and then Medvedev to dance in front of the stage.

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