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MOSCOW (RNS) — Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church suffered a rare setback this week as authorities in Yekaterinburg, the country’s fourth-largest city, backtracked on plans for a new cathedral after thousands of people protested against its construction in a popular park.
Defying a ban on unsanctioned public gatherings, protesters rallied for six consecutive nights between May 13-18, tearing down sections of a metal fence around the planned construction site.
Demonstrations - People - Evening - Number - Rallies
The demonstrations drew about 2,000 people every evening — a significant number for illegal rallies in Russia.
“This is our city,” shouted protesters, as police with nightsticks dragged people from the crowd, according to footage aired by TV Rain, an online opposition channel. “Today the fence — tomorrow (President Vladimir) Putin,” shouted other protesters.
Police - Arrests - People - Days
Police made almost 100 arrests, and 33 people were jailed for up to 15 days.
The proposed cathedral would have been an exact replica of St. Catherine’s Cathedral, which was destroyed by the Soviet Union in 1930 as part of the Communist state’s anti-religion drive.
Locals - Yekaterinburg - City - People - Miles
But many locals in Yekaterinburg, a city of 1.4 million people around 900 miles east of Moscow, objected to its construction in the park, saying it would have deprived them of a rare green space.
The original St. Catherine’s Cathedral was located on a different site in Yekaterinburg, where the Bolsheviks murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. A small chapel stands there today.
Athletes - Arts - Club - Attacks - Demonstrators
Athletes from a local mixed martial arts club also launched physical attacks on demonstrators in a bid to break up the protests — a development that sparked widespread public anger.
“When holy matters are imposed on people with fists, then they cease being holy,” said Oleg Kashin, a well-known Russian journalist.
Sports - Club - Question - Copper - Company
The sports club in question is owned by the Russian Copper Company, which was co-financing the cathedral’s construction alongside the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company. Both...
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