YEKATERINBURG — Thousands of residents of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains who have been protesting the construction of a new church in the city’s central park have vowed to keep up their vigil until they hear an official announcement the project has been canceled.
The Mayor of Yekaterinburg, Alexander Vysokinsky and local governor Yevgeny Kuivashev on Thursday suspended construction and promised to organize a survey on the plans after Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed into the dispute earlier in the day, saying the people’s opinion had to be taken into account.
The events of the last week, which led to clashes between vigilantes and OMON anti-riot police and dozens of detentions and arrests, have led to talk of a new civil society in Russia sparking local activism against big business and the church.
“I remind you that this square was a gift to the city on its 275th anniversary. And now they want to take it away on the eve of the city’s 300th anniversary,” former Mayor of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman told a 6,000-strong crowd late Thursday evening after the announcement of the suspension.
“The president has taken on the role of the governor, who should have resolved this conflict. But the governor used the square to settle a debt for some services provided to him personally. I have no doubt that the cathedral will be built. But maybe in a different place.”
The crowd greeted Mayor Vysokinsky with shouts of “For shame!” and “Resign!”