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St PETERSBURG, February 3. /TASS/. Opponents of the transfer of St Petersburg’s landmark Cathedral of St Isaac to the Russian Orthodox Church have filed an appeal with the city court over a resolution of a court of lower jurisdiction to dismiss a lawsuit against the city authorities, Boris Vishnevsky, a deputy of the legislature of St Petersburg told TASS.
The declarants asked the court to annul the government’s decision to transfer the cathedral to the Church for gratuitous use over a period of 49 years.
"We received a written copy of the district court resolution today, drew up a petition and sent it to the city court by postal service," Vishnevsky said.
He said earlier the declarants believed the district court’s resolution was illegitimate.
Last week, the Vasileostrovsky district court refused to accept a lawsuit to the city government’s committee for ownership relations in the wake of absence of a formal decision by the government to turn the building over to the Church.
The city government of St Petersburg said earlier this month Governor Georgy Poltavchenko had reached agreement with the Russian Orthodox metropolitan diocese of St Petersburg and Ladoga on December 30, 2016, on the transfer of the St Isaac’s to the administrative realm of the Church for a period of 49 years.
The decision sparked off heated debates in society. Activists immediately launched a signup campaign against Gov Poltavchenko’s move and city legislature liberally-minded deputies said they would hold meetings with voters and the file lawsuits against the transfer.
The cathedral’s compound is owned by the city authorities but it enjoys protection of the federal agencies of state power and UNESCO placed it in 1986 on the list of world heritage sites.
The decision caused a highly mixed public reaction. A signup campaign is underway at present to launch a petition for its revoking. Also, deputies of the city legislature have filed a query for it with the federal prosecutorial agencies and have warned of possible lawsuits.
The cathedral designed that was consecrated in the name of St Isaac of Dalmatia took forty years to build - from 1818 through to 1958. Because of impressive costs of its maintenance, it belonged to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Imperial Russia before the revolution of 1917.
The Bolshevik authorities turned it into a museum in 1928. Church services on special occasions resumed there in 1990 and became daily ones over time.
Museum officials say liturgies in the St Isaac’s including the major Christmas service and the special remembrance services for the victims the Russian A-321 jet crash over the Sinai Peninsula had an attendance of about 18,000 people in 2016.
At the same time, about 3.9 million tourists visited the cathedral.