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Skyscraper Plans In St. Petersburg Spark Controversy

The design of the Gazprom City business center in St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG -- Russian Culture Minister Aleksandr Avdeyev says the construction of a 400-meter-high skyscraper in St. Petersburg should be cancelled, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Avdeyev told journalists on October 8 that the building would damage the historic view of Russia's "northern capital."

Earlier this month, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko officially gave permission for construction to begin on the skyscraper, which is called the Okhta Center after the river that runs through the city.

Last week, more than 40 writers and scientists in St. Petersburg sent an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev protesting the construction of the Okhta Center.

UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund have also urged Russian government officials to consider their obligations to protect St. Petersburg's historical city center, which is registered by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

The building, which is to have a twisting shape, was originally to be called Gazprom City and would serve as the headquarters for the giant gas company.