Putin, Abbas open Russian center in Bethlehem

Russian President Vladimir Putin and head of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Mahmoud Abbas attended the opening of a Russian Center of Science and Culture in Bethlehem on Tuesday.

«The Russian Center of Science and Culture is opening today in Bethlehem, the city of Jesus Christ, well-known and revered across the world. I see it as a deep continuity of all centuries-long spiritual, human ties that connect Russia and the Holy Land and, of course, as a testimony of a special nature of the relationship between our peoples,» Putin said at the ceremony.

The Russian president welcomed Abbas at the entrance to the Center building.

The ultra-white building was erected on the ground donated as a gift to the Russian Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IPPO) by the Palestinian authorities four years ago.

The society started building here its cultural and business center, but then handed over a bigger part of the asset to the Russian Federal Agency for the CIS, Russian Expatriates and International Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) to open the Center.

The 3,000-square meter center hosts a 350-seat cinema hall, a multimedia library, classrooms for teaching languages, including Russian, a dance and ballet studio, a shop and a cafe.

The Center will also host an IPPO representative office. The construction was sponsored by Russian oil company RussNeft, which invested 108 million rubles in the project, a company spokesman told reporters.

«The construction took exactly one year: the first brick was laid and the first spade of concrete thrown on June 11, 2011,» he said.

The building was designed by Moscow architects and built by Palestinian workers, he said.

The center upkeep costs will be funded by budget allocations envisaged by Rossotrudnichestvo in the International Relations and International Cooperation subsection, according to a government document published in April 2012.