Putin proposes polling residents on Yekaterinburg church construction
SOCHI. May 16 (Interfax) - It is necessary to take into account the opinion of residents on the construction of St. Catherine's Church in Yekaterinburg; local residents should be polled, and the interests of both supporters and opponents of the project should be respected, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"You know, I heard about it by accident. It was only yesterday. It surprised me a bit. I didn't quite understand what was going on there. This story is yours, it's purely regional," Putin said when requested by a participant in a forum organized by the All-Russia People's Front to comment on the conflict situation linked to the church's construction.
"Usually people ask for a church to be erected. In this case, there are people who are against it," Putin said.
"But all people have the right to express their own opinion. If we're talking about residents of this area, then of course, their opinion should be taken into account. That is, if those people aren't career activists who came from Moscow to stir something up there and promote themselves," he said.
"If they are local residents, then you can't but respect their [opinion]," he said.
Putin went on to remark that a church is to unite rather than divide people.
In this regard, "some steps are needed to resolve this issue for the benefit of those people who actually reside there," he said.
"There is an easy way, which is to hold a poll, and those in the minority must give way to the majority. That's the principle of democracy. But at the same time, we do have to take into account the opinion and interests of the minority," Putin said.
In this situation, investors and the city officials planning to build the church should make sure that a new forest is planted for people in another place nearby and a green park made to accommodate people's needs, he said.
"Instead of staging a tug of war or exchanging abuses, people should sit down and negotiate. And the city authorities should be doing exactly that: searching for a solution that would be optimal for people that reside there," he said.
Beginning on May 13, Yekaterinburg has seen mass protests over plans to erect the St. Catherine's Church on Oktyabrskaya Square that is currently home to a park. Rallies near a fence surrounding the construction site have been occasionally dispersed by riot police. Some participants were detained and later arrested.