UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — In an unusual move, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the voices of dissidents to be heard in a dispute that saw clashes between police and protesters over a new cathedral.
Thousands protested in Urals in Yekaterinburg this week against plans by the Orthodox Church to build a cathedral that mimics pre-Soviet times in a park frequented by many in the center of the city.
“If people are against it, their opinion must be respected,” Putin told a forum in the Black Sea city of Sochi.
He proposed a “poll in which the minority would respond to the will of the majority”.
For two decades, Putin has been known to crack down on public protests and opposition.
“The two sides should take steps to resolve this issue from the point of view of the people living there,” he said Thursday.
Dozens were arrested because of clashes at the construction site in Yekaterinburg, about 1,700 kilometers from Moscow.
Local authorities supported the project, and a major Russian copper producer provided financial support.
“People usually demand a cathedral,” Putin said. “Cathedrals must unite people, not divide them.”
The dispute revealed the tensions caused by the increased influence of the Orthodox Church in Russia.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Pskov earlier denounced “provocations” and “misinformation” about the cathedral and praised the actions of security forces in the dispute.
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