MOSCOW - Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin praised the hospitality and openness of U.S. former President George W. Bush in a telegramme sent hours before meeting his successor Barack Obama.

During the last years we have been working on strengthening Russia-U.S. cooperation. Although there were differences between our countries, I always valued your openness and sincerity, Putin said, congratulating Bush on his 63rd birthday on July 6.

With special warmth I recall your hospitality in the Crawford ranch and your family estate in Kennebunkport, Putin wrote, referring to their 2007 meeting at the Bush family vacation home when the two leaders went fishing and ate lobster.

Bush had said he was able to get a sense of his soul when he first met Putin and since then their warm rapport has helped limit the damage from a series of rows that returned ties between their administrations to chilly Cold War lows.

On Tuesday, Putin, who stepped down as president last year but remains the most influential Russian politician, invited Obama for a Russian-style breakfast during their first meeting at Putin's forest residence outside Moscow.

Russian agencies, quoting the government's press service, said Putin treated Obama to black caviar with sour cream, smoked beluga with pancakes and tea made in the traditional Russian samovar, a big coal-fired kettle.

(Writing by Gleb Bryanski)