President demands frenzied efforts: Kempinski in Minsk to welcome hockey fans by all cost?

Aliaksandr Lukashenka has issued a presidential edict that provides for the construction of the five-star Kempinski Hotel on Minsk’s Independence Avenue to be completed before May 1, i.e. by the 2014 World Ice Hockey Championship, which will take place in Minsk between May 9 and May 25. The companies involved in the project might have been granted numerous benefits and privileges on condition that the hotel would be put into operation by the event, but they failed to meet the deadline.

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{movie}In Focus (15.01.14) A day late a dollar short (ENG subs)|right|15020{/movie}

Kempinski Hotel was originally scheduled to be opened before December 31, 2013, but its construction fell behind schedule, presumably because of difficult soil conditions. Viachaslau Charnou, director of the National Tourism Agency, told reporters last December that the hotel might be opened only after the world hockey championship.

It is to be recalled that Minsk Mayor Mikalai Ladutska said on February 13 that the Kempinski hotel won’t have been finished by the event (English subs):

{movie}13.02.14: 2014 IHWC in Minsk: Hostels to be in demand? (ENG subs)|right|15021{/movie}

But the recent presidential edict offers new concessions to the construction project’s investor Elite Estate, the hotel division of the Triple conglomerate, which is controlled by EU-blacklisted Belarusian business tycoon Yury Chyzh.

In particular, the edict allows Elite Estate to mortgage existing and would-be facilities of the hotel complex and prolongs the period of exemption from customs duty on goods necessary for the construction project until April 30.

The project has been the subject of much controversy since its launch in 2009. The historic buildings of Minsk’s first power station were demolished to make room for Kempinski Hotel despite the fact that they were on the State List of Historical and Cultural Heritage. Furthermore, although buildings in Minsk’s historic center may be no more than 26 meters tall under the culture ministry’s directive, the 10-story hotel stands at least 30 meters tall., following BelaPAN

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