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Putin suggests polling residents on plans for building church in Yekaterinburg

He recalled that "everybody has the right to an opinion"

SOCHI, May 16. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested polling the residents of Yekaterinburg before making a decision whether to push ahead with plans for building a church in one of the city’s public gardens. He was speaking at a meeting of the media forum of the All Russia People’s Front on Thursday.

"Everybody has the right to an opinion. If the people of this neighborhood have an opinion on this score, then it should certainly be taken into account," Putin said. He explained that he was referring to the opinion of local people, and not "professional protesters from Moscow who have arrived for making a fuss and advertising themselves."

"There is a simple way out - conduct a poll," he said. "And the minority will have to obey the majority."

Putin pointed out that the opinion and interests of the minority should be taken into account, too. He speculated that instead of the trees that would have to be cut the investors might pledge to build new ones elsewhere and to create a new public garden.

"It makes no use indulging in a tug of war and quarreling with each other. It is necessary to come to the negotiating table and shake hands on a deal," he said. "This is precisely what the city authorities and regional authorities should be doing - finding the optimal solutions for the people who live there."

Putin said he learned about the controversy last Wednesday and was greatly surprised by what was happening.

"As a rule the people ask for building a church. In this particular case some people object," he said. "A church is a place for uniting people, and breeding disagreement. Steps should be taken by both sides to produce a solution in the interests of all people who live there."

Since May 13, Yekaterinburg has been a scene of unauthorized protests over the choice of a site for building a cathedral. The decision to build a church not in the place of the original one, but in a nearby public garden was made in February 2019 in conformity with the opinion of local residents and all required procedures. The St. Catherine Cathedral in Yakaterinburg is to be built by 2023, when the city will celebrate its 300th anniversary.