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City news, 16.08.2007 16:39

Putin hosts Monaco's Prince Albert II at czarist residence outside St. Petersburg

Monaco's_prince_Albert_II President Vladimir Putin on Sunday met with Monaco's Prince Albert II at an opulent imperial palace outside St. Petersburg.

Putin hosted the principality's ruler at Peterhof, a sprawling 18th century czarist summer estate on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, taking the prince for a stroll amid an array of gardens and playful fountains before they sat down for a meeting in the ornate Grand Palace.

"It's always a pleasure to visit St. Petersburg, but this time I have a special feeling having you as a guide," Prince Albert II said in French, speaking through an interpreter as he sat down for talks with Putin, a native of St. Petersburg.

At the start of their meeting, Putin thanked Albert II for backing Russia's successful bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The prince, who represents Monaco at the International Olympic Committee, attended last month's IOC meeting in Guatemala which awarded the Games to Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"I would like to thank you for your support of Sochi," Putin said.

Albert II hailed growing cultural and scientific ties between Russia and Monaco, adding that he had good personal contacts with Russian scientists who assisted in his polar expedition last year.

The prince, an avid polar explorer, made a dogsled trip to the North Pole in a bid to draw attention to the effects of global warming on the Arctic ice cap; he and a seven-member team launched the four-day, 100-kilometer (60-mile) trip from a Russian base.

"We are supporting your efforts to protect the environment," Putin told Albert II at the start of their meeting.

Russia's NTV television reported that Putin and Albert II also were expected to discuss Russia's Arctic expedition, which involved two mini-submarines that plunged to the seabed at the North Pole and planted a titanium Russian flag symbolically claiming the energy-rich ocean floor for Moscow.

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