President Halimah & Putin break ground for new Russian Cultural Centre & Orthodox church

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between S'pore & Russia.

Kayla Wong | Guan Zhen Tan | November 13, 2018, 09:21 PM

President Halimah Yacob and Russian President Vladimir Putin co-officiated the groundbreaking ceremony of a new Russian Cultural Centre as well as an Orthodox church on Tuesday (Nov. 13).

The opening ceremony was held at Rangoon Road where the proposed centre will be built. A commemorative plaque on stone was unveiled to ceremony attendees, to commemorate the occasion.

Photo by Tan Guan Zhen

Photo by Tan Guan Zhen

The stone reads "The Russian Culture Centre that houses the Russian Orthodox Church will be erected here" in both the English and Russian languages.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, former foreign minister George Yeo and veteran architect Liu Thai Ker were there at the opening ceremony too.

Image by Guan Zhen Tan

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was at the ceremony too. He gave the opening speech. 

Yeo met Lavrov back in March 2009 in Russia when he was there on an official visit, according to a press statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Image by Guan Zhen Tan

Former minister George Yeo helped set up the church

Yeo first helped set the new orthodox church in motion almost 10 years ago.

According to the MFA, Yeo called on the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, in 2009 while he was in Russia.

Image via National Archives of Singapore

Earlier during the day, Putin, who arrived in Singapore for the first time on Tuesday, called on President Halimah at the Istana.

Putin would also be attending the 3rd Asean-Russia Summit and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

This is the first time he is attending the EAS since 2011 when Russia joined the largely Asean-led annual regional meeting.

Good Singapore-Russia relations

The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Russia.

According to the Russia's ambassador to Singapore, Andrey Tatarinov, who told the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the city-state is "singled out as an important partner of Russia in the Asia-Pacific".

He said:

“Russians see Singapore as a comfortable place for business, with very good career opportunities.

Some have even moved here from other countries because of preferences given by the Singaporean government to innovation.”

President Halimah and her husband Mohamad Abdullah Alhabshee hosted a state banquet in Putin's honour on the evening of Nov. 12.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement which noted that both Presidents "welcomed the strengthening of trade and investment, education, and cultural cooperation, and the progress made by the annual High-Level Russia-Singapore Inter-Governmental Commission".

Four agreements were signed on the sidelines of Putin's state visit including a joint statement on the Russia-Singapore Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment; an MOU in higher education; an MOU to promote cooperation on social and labour issues; and an agreement with the regional Government of St Petersburg to cooperate in the potential development of an urban transport management system.

Top image via Guan Zhen Tan