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Getting punk'd in Russia

February 24, 2010: 1:35 PM ET

A high-tech delegation discovers that sunny Silicon Valley optimism is not the easiest concept to explain to Russians.

By Julia Ioffe, contributor

Ashton Kutcher speaks to the Moscow media as Twitter founder Jack Dorsey listens.

Ashton Kutcher was not prepared for this. When he arrived with a U.S. State Department technology delegation last week, he expected the screaming teenage girls, the journalists fighting for interviews, heck, he even expected the cold. But sitting with a group of Russian technology executives on Sunday night, the Punk'd star let loose. "When you get into a room without the Russian government controlling the room, the room becomes so vibrant!" he said. "We've had to fight to get people to talk openly."

Kutcher was here, along with a handful of high profile tech execs -- eBay (EBAY) CEO John Donahoe (who just launched a Russian version of the site), Cisco (CSCO) CTO Padmasree Warrior, Mozilla Foundation head Mitchell Baker, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, and venture capitalist Esther Dyson -- as part of a week-long diplomatic trip to get start ups, students, NGOs and even Kremlin advisors to exchange ideas on the wider uses of social networking technology. In one week, the group set out to help their Russian counterparts figure out new uses for social media, open source browsers, and online garage sales that can help modernize an economy, build a stronger civil society, and help President Dmitry Medvedev with his plans to build a Russian Silicon Valley near Moscow.

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