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Kremlin Acquires Plot Alongside Eiffel Tower

The Kremlin has acquired a piece of land in downtown Paris, across from the Eiffel Tower, where it plans to build a church and a cultural center, a Kremlin official said Monday.

France’s Budget Ministry in October announced a tender for the plot of land, which drew the interest of many French and foreign investors. But the highest and most interesting bid came from Russia, France’s Budget Ministry said in a statement on its web site.

The presidential property department, which took part in the tender on behalf of the government, plans to build a Russian cultural center and an orthodox church on the site it has bought, said Viktor Khrekov, a spokesman for the department.

“This deal is a symbol of partnership between Russia and France, a symbol of Russia’s presence in France,” he told The Moscow Times.

Both Khrekov and the Budget Ministry declined to specify the value of the deal, saying it was a commercial secret under the terms of the contest.

“We just can tell you that we got the best offer,” spokespeople for the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

The bidding price wasn’t the only issue at stake, however, Khrekov said. The Budget Ministry took into account the construction projects being proposed by the applicants.

Russia beat out two other rivals for the land — Canada and Saudi Arabia — who proposed building an embassy and a cultural center, respectively, he said.

The site includes a group of buildings that formerly belonged to the meteorological office of France, located in an elite district of Paris between the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, in the city’s 7th arrondissement.

The plot will also be located near Pont Alexandre III, a bridge built in 1896 in honor of Russian-French relations. The bridge was named after the tsar who reached an alliance with the French Third Republic that lasted from 1892 until the Russian revolution.

Some of the buildings on the plot will be demolished, while others will be integrated with the construction design, Khrekov said. A new tender will be announced to find a developer for the project, and applications by French developers would be considered, he said.

A spokesman for the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church declined to comment on Monday.

“If such a project goes through, it will be an even more significant event than the construction of Pont Alexandre III,” Newsweek quoted a source close to the discussions as saying. The magazine quoted another source in the Kremlin as saying that if Russia won the tender, the government would give free use of the property to the Russian Orthodox Church.

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