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Jan 22, 2011

Elizabeth II - Eat your heart out !

Elizabeth II - Eat your heart out !

ST PETERSBURG is facing a £115 million bill to renovate a ruined 18th century Tsarist palace for President Putin.

The Kremlin is pressing businessmen to donate the cash. While few are likely to have the courage to refuse, there are sound business reasons to back the scheme. Money pledged can be expected to buy protection from the taxman, police and customs. Contributors may also win lucrative contracts.

The Konstantinovsky Palace, designed by the Italian master Rastrelli, has seen better days. It is listed by Unesco as a monument of global importance but was looted and burnt by German troops in the Second World War.

No leader since the Tsars has had an official residence in St Petersburg, but Mr Putin, who comes from the city, plans to have the palace ready in two years. Plans for the state to finance its transformation have been abandoned. A charitable fund overseen by the mayor, the culture minister and a Nobel physics prizewinner has been set up.

Not everyone is happy at being urged to contribute. One businessman told the Vedomosti daily: "If the government wants to interest businesses in the reconstruction, it has to show us real pluses to come from taking part. To be frank, we need this about as much as a goat needs an accordion."

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