London, Sep 22 : Russian officials have sent a team of builders to Monaco to erect a three-bedroom "dacha" in Prince Albert's garden, as a sign of the growing friendship between Moscow and the tiny principality on the Riviera.
The simple wooden building has the function of a pool house at Albert's estate in the hills behind Monte Carlo and reflected the growing bonds with Moscow that have helped to turn Monaco, a glamorous tax haven, into the favourite playground of Russians.
Albert's spokesman declined to comment but a former adviser saw the dacha as evidence of the warm friendship that has developed between the 50-year-old bachelor prince and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The two spent a week together last summer fishing and hunting in Siberia, where the Russian leader was photographed posing without his shirt. Albert was given two freshwater seal pups from Lake Baikal.
They met again last month in St Petersburg, when Putin thanked Albert, a member of the International Olympic Committee, for supporting Russia's bid to host the winter Olympics in the Black Sea port of Sochi in 2014.
Albert has previously expressed gratitude to Russia for helping to organise an expedition he made to the North Pole, in the footsteps of one of his ancestors, in 2006.
Ever since Prince Rainier, Albert's father, married Grace Kelly, the American actress, in 1956, an aura of glamour has clung to the tiny principality, helping to attract business: and a lot of business these days seems to be coming from Russia.
Some advertisements in estate agents' windows are in Russian and so are the number plates on the Ferraris: Monaco has become the latest magnet for mega-rich Russians in search of somewhere to hide their money.