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City news, 28.02.2008 10:55

Putin pays nostalgic trip to St Petersburg

Four days before an election that will end eight years in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin paid a nostalgic visit to St Petersburg, his home town he has revived as Russia's second capital.

Putin attended ceremonies marking the 225th anniversary of the Mariinsky theatre internationally known for its Kirov Ballet and star opera singers like Anna Netrebko. He also handed out high state awards to the theatre's best actors.

"Your theatre glorifies world art and our country," Putin told the ceremony in the Mariinsky's historical building in the city centre.

The city, build by Peter the Great in the 18th century as Russia's imperial capital, lost its status when the Bolsheviks switched the capital to Moscow after the 1917 revolution.

In the 8 years of his rule, Putin has done much to restore the city's prestige.

Several major Russian companies have been officially encouraged to re-register there and pay taxes locally. And the city has become a venue of major international events, including the summit of Group of Eight industrial nations in 2006.

Putin has also moved Russia's Constitutional Court to the city and is pushing the navy command to follow the suit.

Speaking in the Mariinsky Theatre, he said it could count on at least an equal treat with Moscow-based rivals like Bolshoi.

"I am pleased to note, that he financing of Mariinsky Theatre will reach this year 1.5 billion roubles ($61 million), which is identical to funding the Bolshoi," Putin said.

The push he has given St Petersburg may not end when he leaves office. He himself will continue to exert much influence as prime minister -- and his certain successor in the Kremlin, Dmitry Medvedev, also comes from St Petersburg.

"As far as St Petersburg's future is concerned, there is every chance of expecting a bright future," said one senior city official who refused to be named. "The city's revival is likely to continue under the new president, no doubt."

News source: Reuters

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