A memorandum on the completion of restoration work on the Amber Room was signed yesterday in the Catherine Palace at Pushkin. The ceremony was attended among others by Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, Achim Middelschulte, a member of board of Ruhrgas, Ivan Sautov, the director of the Tsarkskoe Selo state museum. Shvydkoi told journalists that the restoration of the Amber Room marked a new era in Russian-German relations because 'it had broken down many preconceptions.'
The official opening ceremony of the Amber Room is scheduled for May 31, when 45 heads of state will be in St. Petersburg. The room will be opened by Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Restoration work on the Amber Room, whose treasures were carried off by German soldiers during World War II and then lost, was begun in 1979. Approximately 6 tonnes of amber was used in the restoration work. The stone was supplied by the Kaliningrad Amber Plant. For twenty years (1979-1999) the work was financed from the federal budget to the tune of USD 7.754 million. In 1999 an agreement was signed with German company Ruhrgas, which donated USD 3.5 million for the work to be completed.
The remarks from the Pope came as "a very strong step towards degradation," "given the rather massive nature of homosexuality" among the Catholic clergy.