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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yekaterinburg Spent Millions on Summit Face-Lift




The streets of Yekaterinburg are clean and potholes have been filled. Millions of dollars have been spent rebuilding and refurbishing three mansions on a suburban government estate.


There are commemorative chocolate boxes featuring the Kremlin, the Eiffel Tower and Brandenburg Gate. There are souvenirs fashioned from precious metals and semi-precious stones with images of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


But it is a case of all dressed up and no place to go.


Yekaterinburg spent millions of dollars rolling out the red carpet in expectation of Thursday's "troika" summit between Yeltsin, Chirac and Kohl.


But much to the chagrin of ambitious regional governor Eduard Rossel, the Kremlin decided last week to move the meeting from Yekaterinburg to Moscow, citing Yeltsin's poor health.


Local media has speculated how much Rossel has spent on the summit bash. Citing an unidentified source in the Yekaterinburg regional government, Interfax reported the sum at $11 million, only 30 percent of which is to be repaid by Moscow.


About $8.5 million was spent reconstructing the Maly Istok residence, which was to have been the venue for the summit, Interfax said. The Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, quoting construction workers, said that expensive imported parquet was laid and light leather furniture was bought for the central building and two wings, intended for Yeltsin and his guests.


Craftsmen from the Urals town of Kasli, a center of traditional black iron casting, made new elaborate gates and fence for the estate. Another $2 million went to reconstruct Rossel's city residence, Interfax said.


NTV reported that the regional administration took a $6 million loan from private Guta bank to pay the bills.


All has not been wasted. The jeweled souvenirs have been shipped to Moscow and the chocolate boxes sold in Yekaterinburg, Interfax said.


Itar-Tass reported from Kasli that a large black iron sculpture "Bear On His Hind Legs," which bears a resemblance to the German chancellor and was intended as a present for Kohl, has also been shipped to Moscow, along with other sculptures of St. George, a deer on a hill and horses running free. It is unclear what will be done with them.


Rossel, who was eager for a political boost before local legislature elections next month, appeared on NTV television last week before the venue of the summit was changed and proudly outlined preparations for an event in which he would play a prominent role. He planned a round table in "quarters" with space for himself alongside the three presidents.


Facing criticism for extravagance, the Sverdlovsk region, of which Yekaterinburg is the capital, now wants Moscow to pick up the bill.


But it is likely to be disappointed. "Even the most optimistic people do not believe today that this money will be returned," said Konstantin Pudov, spokesman for Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkady Chernetsky, Rossel's political opponent. "It is a huge blow to the governor's image."


"People are used to our governor's extravagances," said Viktor Tolstenko, an analyst with Yekaterinburg's leading paper, Uralsky Rabochy, reached by telephone. "Mansions are built just like that and salaries go on unpaid."