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Moscow 'Disneyland' project ends in fiasco - paper

MOSCOW, October 12 (RIA Novosti) - One of the most ambitious and long-awaited projects to be sponsored by Moscow authorities - Wonderpark, which was to become Russia's version of Disneyland - has flopped, according to a popular daily.

Vremya Novostei said that over 300 hectares of land was allocated for the construction of the amusement park in the west of the Russian capital in 1992 to a non-profit organization headed by sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, who has been lauded and criticized for huge bronze monuments in Moscow, but that nothing has been built.

The newspaper said the Moscow government issued a resolution to shut down the project, at least as long as it remained under the guidance of Tsereteli, on July 31, 2007. By the end of October all buildings erected on the site are supposed to be removed, but buildings housing a car service center and a concrete factory continue to operate, bringing profits to someone.

Vremya Novostei cited prosecutors as saying that damage worth tens of thousands of dollars had been inflicted on the area, which is protected by environmental laws. Criminal proceedings have been launched to investigate into the violations.

In the 1990s, the ambitious project failed to pass an environmental test, with regulators refusing to allow the designers to chop down trees in the area.

Despite Tsereteli's assurances that hundreds of millions of dollars would be invested into the project and an excellent recreation area would emerge, with rides, entertainment, sports centers for children, and an educational center on peoples of the world, nothing of the kind actually emerged.

Instead, Tsereteli's fund concluded short-term lease contracts with several dozen commercial organizations.

Vremya Novostei said tax inspectors discovered that the fund dodged taxes, and that its debt to the state in 1999-2001 was about $3 million.

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