At a ceremony in St. Petersburg today, Les Rowe, the Australian Ambassador to Russia, and Susan Reilly, the Deputy Mayor of the Australian city of Melbourne, presented St. Petersburg with the gift of three park benches. Alexander Prokhorenko, Vice-governor of St. Petersburg and Chairman of the External Affairs Committee, accepted the gifts on behalf of the City Government.
The benches - designed by blind craftsman and made from Jarrah, a hardwood from Western Australia - have been set next to the statue of Turgenev on Manezhnaya Square. 'We hope that this gift will serve as a reminder of St. Petersburg's sister city relationship with Melbourne,' Reilly said.
Rowe noted that Australia would not be participating in St. Petersburg's official jubilee celebrations at the end of the month. 'We will not be taking part because we are not a member of the European Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States or the G8,' Rowe said. 'But we certainly hope that there will be more Australian delegations to St. Petersburg in the future,' he said.
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now