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Munificent Moscow

By all accounts the City of Moscow is in good shape.

It's one of the few net contributors to the federal budget, has the lion's share of revenue from both banks and corporates, and its debt ratings are constrained by the sovereign ceiling of BB-/Ba2.

But its reasons for issuing a $500 million Eurobond are quite transparent.

As the city prepares to celebrate its 850th anniversary this autumn, Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has gone on a spending spree. Roads are being resurfaced, lighting improved, and Red Square and its environs are being fully revamped - they're even putting new green marble slabs on the walls of the subway in front of the Kremlin.

But the recent arrival of a statue of Peter the Great has got up the Muscovites' noses. Crafted by Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and bought for the city on Luzhkov's orders for several million dollars, it depicts the late 17th, early 18th century tsar on the deck of a ship. Over 100 metres tall and placed on the banks of the Moskva river, it is intended to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Russian fleet.

But no-one seems to have told the mayor that Russia's most infamous monarch abandoned Moscow to found a new capital on the Baltic - St Petersburg.

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