Kremlin evasive over public demonstrations against building church


Interfax-Religiia, 17 May 2019


The Kremlin declared that the decision of Ekaterinburg authorities to conduct a survey of local residents on the issue of the construction of a church following the reaction by the head of state cannot be called evidence of their ineffectiveness.


"Local authorities held a dialogue with residents of Ekateriburg before the president's statement. The president simply spoke more clearly and in this case they, as the regional authority, took heed, including to the head of state's opinion," Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian president, said.


This is how he responded to the question of journalists whether the poll of residents, which was scheduled after Vladimir Putin's statements about the situation around building a church in the center of Ekaterinburg, shows that local authorities demonstrated their own inability to resolve independently problems of the region.


"To speak of ineffectiveness of the authorities, based on this, seems to me to be wrong," Peskov noted.


To a clarifying question whether the intervention of the president in the situation around the church in Ekaterinburg seems to the Kremlin somehow a switch to hands-on control, the press secretary of the head of state answered: "The president did not intervene. Journalists asked him and the president explained. He spoke with the journalists. They put a question to him, and he did not take the initiative to intervene."


In Peskov's opinion, talk about the president's interference in the situation in Ekaterinburg is "slight of hand."


He noted that the question whether it is necessary to conduct a referendum or survey regarding church construction should be decided by regional authorities.


"This is their prerogative. The Kremlin cannot make a decision here," Peskov said.


As reported, on Thursday Putin stated that a church should unite people and not divide them, and in this regard "some steps are needed from both sides in order to resolve this question in the interests of all people who really reside there."


"There is a simple process—conduct a survey. And the minority should submit to the majority. The principle of democracy consists of this. But at the same time it surely is necessary to respect the opinion and interests of that minority," Putin declared.


Since 13 May, in Ekaterinburg, unsanctioned mass protests have been going on against the construction of a cathedral of Saint Catherine on October Square, where there now is a park. In the three days of conduct of the demonstrations, dozens of persons have been arrested and the total number of those held in custody because of the situation with building the church has reached into the thirties. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 May 2019)

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