Work on Russian Cultural Centre in Singapore has begun

The plot of land set aside for the centre is 3,265 sq m in the Farrer Park area, near Little India. ST PHOTOS: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - A bilateral collaboration between Singapore and Russia is ongoing, and construction of the Russian Cultural Centre in Rangoon Road began on March 7.

The Straits Times understands that a tender was awarded for the construction of the centre late last year and groundwork recently started on the site.

The plot of land set aside for the centre is 3,265 sq m in the Farrer Park area, near Little India, although it is not clear how much of this space will be taken up by the building.

The lease on the plot is 30 years, starting from 2017 and set to expire in 2047, according to documents from the Singapore Land Authority. The proposed building is meant to be four storeys high.

When ST visited the plot last Thursday (March 17), it was cordoned off with safety barriers.

The construction of the centre was raised in Parliament last month when Singapore announced it would impose financial and trade sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Following the announcement, Jalan Besar GRC MP Denise Phua had asked whether the Government would review ongoing projects and initiatives with the Russian government.

Responding, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore has "no quarrel" with the Russian people.

Noting that Ms Phua was indirectly alluding to the Russian Cultural Centre here, which would also house a Russian Orthodox church, Dr Balakrishnan said: "I would imagine that this is a project which, in my own view, should continue because this goes beyond the politics and the conflict which is going on right now."

A ground-breaking ceremony for the centre was held in November 2018, with President Halimah Yacob and Russian President Vladimir Putin - on his first state visit to Singapore - in attendance.

The two leaders unveiled a large foundation stone fixed with a plaque commemorating the event.

The stone was not at the site when ST visited the plot.

In response to queries from ST, the Russian Embassy here said it was moved about a month ago in preparation for construction work to begin, and is being held by the embassy.

The embassy's First Secretary Aleksandr Solovev said the stone will be reinstated when construction is completed and that the centre will have space for a Russian Orthodox church.

He added that the completion date of the project has not been fixed.

In a letter to ST in January last year, Mr Solovev said the Rangoon Road plot is leased by the Singapore Government to the Russian government based on a bilateral agreement signed in 2015 on the construction of a cultural centre with an Orthodox church.

He was responding to a letter from a member of the public who had noted that the plaque was missing from the commemorative stone.

Mr Solovev said in his letter that the plaque was stolen a few months after the ceremony, but was found and returned to the embassy by the Singapore police.

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