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Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s bust unveiled in Bethlehem

January 19, 21:12 UTC+3 BETHLEHEM

The bust has been installed in a park adjoining the square where the city’s main shrine, the Nativity Basilica is located

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© Andrey Shirokov/TASS

BETHLEHEM /West Bank of the Jordan/, January 19. /TASS/. The unveiling of a bust of the Earth’s first man who went into space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took place in downtown Bethlehem on Friday.

The bust has been installed in a park adjoining Manger Square where the city’s main shrine, the Nativity Basilica is located.

Overnight to Friday and in the early hours of the morning, the city had a rainy weather with a strong wind but the clouds dissipated by the beginning of the ceremony and the bust emerged before the eyes of the public under the warm sunrays.

"The Russian Gagarin in the Palestinian Bethlehem signals the continuing presence that Russia has always had in Palestine beginning with the 19th century," the Russian envoy to the Palestinian National Authority, Aidar Aganin told TASS.

"Gagarin’s bust in Bethlehem connects the 2,000-years-long history of humankind in the new era with the newest chapter that began with man’s breakthrough into space on April 12, 1961, when Gagarin brought human presence into orbit and became a symbol of humankind’s aspirations for a bright future," Aganin said.

The monument to Gagarin became one more emblem of Russian presence in Bethlehem. The city is home to a multirole cultural and sports center built by the Administrative Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation that has two buildings - a business center with conference halls and offices, two large gyms for judo/karate and for Greco-Roman wrestling, and a cultural/musical center with an auditorium and a recording studio.

Located fairly close to the multirole center is the Russian Center of Science and Culture.

Also, Bethlehem has a Russian-Palestinian Friendship school for boys where the Russian language is in the curriculum, Aganin recalled.

In addition, Russia supported reconstruction of the historical Star Street that was finalized a year ago. The street begins on Manger Square by the walls of Nativity Basilica. The project was sponsored by the Russian government in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Finance of the Palestinian Authority, as well as by Bethlehem municipality.

UNESCO has placed Star Street on its list of world historical heritage.

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