Albert II, the King of the Belgians, and Queen Paola are to pay a state visit to the Russian Federation from February 19 to 21.
A state visit is a significant event in itself. This will be the tenth such visit over the five years of the reign of King Albert. Thereby, Belgium emphasises special importance which it attaches to relations with Russia. The unconventional nature of the visit is also evidenced by the fact that the Royal couple will be accompanied by Crown Prince Philip. This was done previously only during the visit to Japan in 1996, Royal Court spokeswoman Francoise Gustain has told Itar-Tass here.
The late King Baudouin, Albert's elder brother, visited the Soviet Union in 1975. The reigning monarch received Russian President Boris Yeltsin shortly after his ascension to the throne in 1993.
President Yeltsin and First Lady Naina Yeltsin will attend the official functions during the Belgian Royal couple's visit here. The King is scheduled to have meetings with the House Speakers of the Russian Federal Assembly (parliament) and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and make a speech at a reception.
King Albert is to visit the Khrunichev State Space Centre while the Queen, who back at home patronises the development of arts and crafts, will tour the Kremlin museums, a ballet school and the GUM department store.
In Moscow and St. Petersburg, where the guests will spend the concluding day of the visit, they are to lay wreaths at the Unknown Soldier's Tomb and to the Monument to the Defenders of Leningrad. Traditionally, the Royal couple never give interviews or press conferences. Therefore, the programme of the visit makes no provision for meetings with the press.
Crown Prince Philip, 37, Honorary Chairman of Belgian Chamber of Foreign Trade, usually leads a business delegation. This time his participation in the visit reflects his personal interest in Russia, the spokeswoman pointed out.
The Belgian monarchy has been in existence since the state was formed in 1831. ... Read more