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Berlusconi loses bet with Putin

Premier forced to buy Russian plant's first SUV

29 December, 14:36
Berlusconi loses bet with Putin (ANSA) - Vladivostok, December 29 - A lost bet against Vladimir Putin will cost Premier Silvio Berlusconi the price of a mid-sized SUV, the Russian prime minister said Tuesday.

While visiting a new car plant in Siberia which builds the UAV Patriot, Putin told autoworkers he had made a bet with Berlusconi that the factory would be able to start production before the end of the year.

The wager arose from a conversation about the new UAZ plant in Vladivostok, a joint venture with Italian auto giant Fiat, during Berlusconi's visit to St Petersburg in October.

"I told him we'd be turning out Patriots by New Year's, but he didn't believe me," Putin said. Berlusconi was so convinced the Siberian plant would take longer, that he agreed to buy its first model if it came off the assembly line by New Year's Day.

Putin said the premier's new car was on the lot and ready to drive by early December.

Marketed as an affordable car for families, UAZ Patriots sell for less than 12,000 euros.

Putin said that while the Italian premier had graciously conceded defeat, ''he immediately asked for a discount''.

''So we decided to take 10% of the price tag,'' Putin said, underlining that ''this isn't a present, it's business''.

In Berlusconi's absence, Putin took a test drive of the premier's new Patriot, a metallic gold model with velvet seats, a sunroof, automatic windows and power locks. Putin said he was sure the premier would be pleased by the car, but did not elaborate on how he could get it to Italy from the eastern edge of Siberia.

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