Ninety-six people have been detained as protests swelled this week over plans to build an Orthodox cathedral on a park in Russia’s fourth-largest city, Yekaterinburg.Â
Violence erupted after a reported 2,000 protesters pulled down fencing around the building site on Monday, 13 May. Protesters are angry about the loss of one of the few green spaces in the city.
Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened yesterday, saying the church "should unite people, not divide them", and called for the building plans to be put to an opinion poll.
The city’s deputy mayor then announced that construction would be suspended while a survey was conducted, the BBC reports.
Intended to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Yekaterinburg, the new St Catherine Cathedral was sited at the park after locals voiced opposition to other sites.
The Russian Orthodox Church, a strong supporter of Putin, has said it needs new churches after the destruction of many of its buildings in the Soviet era.Â
The outspoken opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, yesterday released an investigation into the wealth of Igor Altushkin, a business tycoon who is sponsoring the cathedral project, reports Associated Press news agency.Â
The agency also reported that Russian independent news website The Bell had reported that the cathedral is part of a larger development project that includes a hotel, but that Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refuted the reports, saying there were no such plans.
Photograph: Protesters against the cathedral gathering for the second day, on 14 May, in Yekaterinburg, Russia (Leonid Makarov/CC0 1.0 public domain)