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Russian Orthodox Church Backs Down In Yekaterinburg Church Dispute

Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg (file photo)

YEKATERINBURG -- The Russian Orthodox Church says it has rejected "the right" to build a cathedral at a disputed site in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

In a statement released on June 16, Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye said that in an "atmosphere of total lies and deceit" building the church on the site would still be potential cause for discord.

Metropolitan Kirill said he does not want to "give the devil that opportunity."

The statement follows a rare public outcry over the project to build a church in a popular park in Russia's fourth-largest city, which has prompted President Vladimir Putin to urge all sides to find a comprise solution.

On May 22, officials in the Sverdlovsk region scrapped plans to build the church in the park, citing a poll showing that 74 percent of respondents thought locating the new church there was a poor choice.

The authorities arrested about 100 demonstrators during several evenings of protests in Yekaterinburg last month, and sentenced dozens of them to jail terms of between two and 15 days.

In his statement, Metropolitan Kirill said that opponents to the project claimed not to oppose building a church but in practice showed "hatred for the existence of God in their lives."

He said the church would be built soon but not on the disputed site or any other green space, park, or public space.

Kirill said that the Church hopes this is the last time it will make a concession, saying: "We have no cheeks left to turn."