Activists Storm Yekaterinburg Park in Protest Against New Church

Activists Storm Yekaterinburg Park in Protest Against New Church
Written by Oluseyi Adefowora

About 2,000 individuals have protested against a church being built on a park square in Yekaterinburg in Russia.

Tuesday was the second day of protests in what is a long-standing conflict over the planned church.

Activists say building St Catherine’s Cathedral on the square will destroy one of the city’s few green spaces.

But the Russian Orthodox Church says it needs new churches to replace the many that were destroyed under Soviet anti-religion laws.

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This particular church will be a replica of one such cathedral that was demolished in 1930.

It is due to be completed in 2023 in time for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the government was monitoring the situation.

Following a call on social media, thousands of residents got together “for a stroll” on the Iset River embankment in the center of the city on Monday.

The protesters gathered near a temporary fence that had been erected around a section of the park, marking off the space where the church is supposed to be built.

They formed a human chain around the fence and, eventually, managed to topple it while chanting: “We want a square.”

As the crowds made their way into the park, they were confronted by security guards hired by Russian Copper Company (RCC) – which is sponsoring the construction of the church – as well as some Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters apparently linked to the company’s Academy of Martial Arts.

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Among the pro-church fighters was Ivan Shtyrkov, also known as the Ural Hulk – a professional MMA fighter and head of the RCC’s academy.

Protests continued through the night, and throughout the following day.

According to independent Russian news outlets, several protesters were arrested on Tuesday and taken into police custody. Local news site 66.ru says seven people were arrested, while Russian news agency Interfax puts the number at 10.

The church has been a source of controversy since plans to build it were first announced almost a decade ago, in 2010.

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On its website, the local activist group in Yekaterinburg says: “To build the cathedral they want to destroy the park, which is a favorite place for residents to relax.”

Others have said that the city is in need of more, not fewer, parks.

“Nobody is against a church, but everyone is against building one here,” one protester told Radio Free Europe. “There are lots of churches here… But not much green space is left in the city.”

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Oluseyi Adefowora

I love people of substance and value as my close associate

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