Wed, Feb 08, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Russian millionaire details plans for new Romanov empire on Pacific islands

The Guardian

A Russian millionaire is in advanced talks with the Kiribati government to lease three uninhabited islands and establish an alternative Russia and revive the monarchy.

Anton Bakov and his wife, Maria, are planning to re-establish the Romanov Empire on three remote islands in the south Pacific nation of Kiribati, and invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the impoverished island’s economy.

The Russian monarchy was overthrown by the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and Bakov, a businessman and former Russian MP, has devoted himself to reviving it — which over the years has included exploring options for a base in Montenegro and the Cook Islands.

Bakov has proposed leasing the uninhabited islands of Malden, Starbuck and Millennium to use as a base for his “alternative Russia,” as well as building infrastructure for tourists and businesses.

According to Bakov and the Kiribati government, the three islands are completely uninhabited and undeveloped, and Bakov’s offer is the largest investment ever considered by the island nation.

“We were drawn to Kiribati due to the wonderful climate, big and spacious uninhabited islands and small population, which would obviously benefit from our financial assistance,” Bakov said by e-mail.

Bakov’s son, Mikhail, first approached the Kiribati government in late 2015 with his father’s investment plan.

After meeting with the Bakovs earlier this year, Kiribati President Taneti Mamau set out with a number of government ministers to inspect the three islands in person.

The round-trip was expected to take up to a month and a decision on whether to proceed with the deal would be made on the president’s return near the end of this month.

“We are planning to construct air and sea ports, solar power stations, freshwater plants, hospitals, schools and settlements for the employees,” Bakov said.

“The main economic objects of the islands will be ecofriendly hotels and fish processing plants. We would also develop tropical agriculture and Russian Imperial University,” he said.

Bakov expects the development of the islands to take 10 to 15 years and would eventually employ 1,000 I-Kiribati — as residents of the islands are known — largely recruited from Christmas Island, about 670km away.

The first stage of the project would be an immediate financial injection of US$120 million to the Kiribati government, Bakov said, followed by US$230 million for the first stage of infrastructure construction on Malden Island, as well as additional taxes and customs for the Kiribati government.

Although the islands would act as a base for the Romanov Empire, Bakov did not anticipate many Russians migrating permanently to Kiribati, as the climate was too harsh and the distance too great.

“The equatorial climate doesn’t suit so well the Russian people ... We consider that the immigration to Australia and NZ [New Zealand] will still be much more desirable for them,” he said.

“So we would assume the quantity of the Russian people living permanently on the islands will be 1 to 2 percent. However, financial investments from the Russians will be much more considerable,” he said.

Emil Schutz, an I-Kiribati MP who has been working closely with the Bakovs on the project, said his country had tried for decades to spark international investment in the nation, but rising sea levels and the projected impact of climate change were a strong deterrent.

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