Russian President Vladimir Putin has intervened within the ongoing row over a brand new church in Yekaterinburg.
He mentioned the Russian Orthodox Church “ought to unite folks, not divide them”, and known as for the plans to construct a church in a park to be put to a ballot.
The town’s deputy mayor rapidly introduced building could be suspended whereas a survey was performed.
It comes after three days of protests by hundreds of metropolis residents, throughout which 21 folks had been arrested.
Protesters say that constructing St Catherine’s Cathedral on a park sq. will destroy one in all Yekaterinburg’s few inexperienced areas, which one native activist group says is “a favorite place for residents to loosen up”.
However the Russian Orthodox Church says it wants new church buildings to exchange the numerous buildings destroyed beneath Soviet anti-religion legal guidelines.
What did Putin say?
Addressing a press convention in Sochi, Mr Putin requested if the protesters had been “godless”, earlier than including: “Folks normally ask for a church, and right here they’re protesting in opposition to it.”
The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford studies that he then mentioned everybody has a proper to a view, and if the protesters actually are locals – and never “activists from Moscow who got here to make a fuss and interact in self-PR” – then their view must be thought of.
The president then mentioned native officers ought to sit down with all sides and “discover the optimum answer for individuals who stay there”, by conducting a ballot.
“I believe the Church ought to unite folks, not divide them,” he mentioned. “So there should be steps by either side to resolve the scenario for individuals who actually stay there. There’s a straightforward approach to do that – maintain a ballot. And the minority has to do what the bulk needs. That is democracy. However it’s important to contemplate the pursuits of the minority too.”
He additionally mentioned that “whoever the traders are” ought to be sure that bushes are planted close to the location, for “moms and pushchairs”.
When will the ballot be held?
Yekaterinburg’s Mayor Alexander Vysokinsky later informed Tass information company that they “already began the survey right this moment”, and that it could take at the very least 20 days to finish.
However there could possibly be multiple ballot. Deputy Mayor Yekaterina Kuzemka informed the Interfax-Ural information company that metropolis officers will conduct one survey, whereas regional authorities will perform one other one.
After which, she mentioned, neither of those “can be perceived by the protesting public as legit” – which can result in different, unbiased polls being held.
“Many public organisations have been in contact saying they’re able to provoke a mass unbiased survey,” Ms Kuzemka added. “This can be a superb initiative, we’re not in opposition to it.”
Mayor Vysokinsky additionally mentioned he would meet with a gaggle of protesters on Saturday to debate the problem.
Why are folks protesting in opposition to the church?
The church has been a supply of controversy since plans to construct it had been first introduced in 2010.
On its web site the native activist group in Yekaterinburg says: “To construct the cathedral they wish to destroy the park, which is a favorite place for residents to loosen up.”
Others have mentioned that the town is in want of extra, not fewer, parks.
One protester, Daria Malikova, informed BBC Russian’s Nataliya Zotova that President’s Putin’s suggestion of a survey was “nice”, however did not go far sufficient.
“In my view there shouldn’t be a ballot, there ought to be a referendum, through which the native residents can be knowledgeable to begin with about all the professionals and cons of each choices,” she mentioned.
“This park is a spot for the whole metropolis,” Ms Malikova added. “It’s a place the place festivals and live shows happen. Younger folks from all around the metropolis come right here to hang around, to sit back, so you will need to ask everybody within the metropolis.”