A lofty monument to a saint revered in both Russia and Ukraine might not tower over Moscow after all.
The idea was to erect a 24-meter statue of Grand Prince Vladimir -- the ruler of Kievan Rus who converted eastern Slavs to Orthodox Christianity 1,000 years ago -- at one of the highest points in the Russian capital.
But the organization that initiated the plan, the Russian Military Historic Society, is now seeking a different site after protests by thousands of Moscow residents.
City authorities reportedly had agreed to both the idea and the proposed location at the crest of the city's Sparrow Hills. But that was before more than 55,000 Muscovites signed a petition protesting the plan as "illegal and dangerous," arguing that the monument's construction would threaten a protected cultural site and would be situated on unstable land.
The Historical Society subsequently said experts had raised serious concerns about whether it was safe to build such a big monument at the proposed location and that shoring it up would be costly. As a result, it has lowered its expectations by suggesting that a smaller version of the monument could be erected in the city center and has requested that the Moscow City Duma grant a new location.
The society's deputy director, Vladislav Kononov, told Ekho Moskvy radio on June 9 that three alternative sites were being considered: Lubyanka Square, in front of the former KGB headquarters; an area adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, near Red Square; or Smolensk Square, where the Foreign Ministry offices are located.
Kononov also said that if the statue were placed in downtown Moscow its size could be decreased and that the initial plan to place the monument on a 7-meter podium could be scrapped.
Kononov's statements come amid reports that many in Moscow were questioning the timing of the proposal, which come as Ukraine's armed forces are fighting against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Vladimir stands at the center of a row between Russia and Ukraine over the legacy of the grand prince. Vladimir, or Volodymyr in Ukrainian, ruled Kievan Rus from Kyiv, the cradle of Russian civilization and the capital of Ukraine, and is a patron saint in both countries.
A soaring statue of the grand prince was erected atop Volodymyr's Hill in Kyiv in 1853, and is a symbol of the Ukrainian capital.
The thought of Moscow erecting an even larger statue to Vladimir has stirred passions, particularly following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March last year and amid Ukraine's efforts to defeat Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Based on reporting by Ekho Moskvy and lenta.ru