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Russian Protesters Pull Down Fences, Clash With Police Over Site Of Proposed Church

New Church Plan Sparks Confrontation In Russia
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WATCH: New Church Plan Sparks Confrontation In Russia

YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- Hundreds of protesters clashed with police for a second night over a city proposal to build a new Russian Orthodox church on the site of a popular park in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

A day after demonstrators pulled down fences erected to protect the construction site, hundreds of people gathered again on May 14, facing off against a larger contingent of riot police.

Demonstrators engaged in a tug-of-war with police over some of the fences; other people appeared to carry off parts of the barriers and threw them into a nearby pond.

"We're for the square! We're for the square!" protesters chanted and called for city officials to meet with them. "Mayor: Come to us! Mayor: Come to us!"

At least 10 people were detained. Video from local news sites showed uniformed police dragging some protesters to the ground, and a growing number of riot police trucks parked along the perimeter of the square.

At the earlier demonstration, protesters were harassed by young men wearing tracksuits, suggesting they may have been hired by law enforcement or private contractors.

"People are unhappy because no one is listening to them. No one is against the church. They're against building the church here," said one man, who didn't give his name. "In the city, there's not much green space left. Everything is being cut down."

City authorities had granted permission to church officials to build a replica of a cathedral that had been demolished in 1930 by Soviet leaders.

Local activists decried the plan, saying it would destroy a beloved green space in Russia's fourth-largest city.​

After a meeting with protest organizers, Yevgeny Kuivashev, the governor of the Sverdlovsk region where the city is located, said the construction project would proceed, and would not be relocated to another site.

The demonstration was the latest example of a series of localized protests sparked by outrage over various municipal initiatives. Residents of a Moscow regional town last year had a series of violent clashes with police over a proposed new landfill to house trash and garbage from Moscow itself.

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A similar protest was staged near the northern city of Arkhangelsk in February, where residents fought another proposal to have Moscow garbage transported to a local landfill.

Yekaterinburg has also shown a streak of political independence in the past. Yevgeny Roizman resigned as city mayor in 2018 in protest at changes to the city charter that abolished the direct election of the mayor.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, and AP

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