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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shelter Closure On Hold

A city government order to close a private shelter for homeless girls has been put on hold pending a decision by Mayor Yury Luzhkov, while shelter advocates have raised the stakes by appealing to the U.S. president for help.

The Island of Hope shelter will remain open until Luzhkov has "figured out the situation," said Natalya Trigup, an official in the mayor's office.

"I would expect that this situation will be resolved to the advantage of both the shelter and Ogorodnikov," she added.

Since opening in June 1995, the shelter has been the focus of an intense dispute with city authorities who claim the home is a ruin. The eastern district sanitation commission stepped into the fray Monday with an order that the home be closed for failing to meet federal sanitation regulations.

Ogorodnikov, a Soviet-era religious dissident, was not optimistic Thursday about the shelter's chances of staying open. "We're just sitting here from hour to hour waiting for something to happen," he said.

In a bid to increase the shelter's profile, advocates have appealed to U.S. officials for help.

Michael Bass, the Moscow representative of the U.S. charity Beautiful Hearts, said U.S. Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey had sent a letter to President Bill Clinton, requesting that the president meet with Ogorodnikov during an official visit to Russia later this month.

Smith is chairman of the Helsinki Commission and heads the congressional sub-committee on international organizations and human rights.

A staff member of the Helsinki Commission confirmed Friday that a letter had gone out to the White House on April 4.

Smith, who has never seen the shelter and met only once with Ogorodnikov in 1988, made his request based on accounts received by Beautiful Hearts, said the staff member, who requested anonymity.

An official from the White House said it was doubtful at this late date that the shelter would feature on the president's itinerary.

"We get a ton of letters a day like that from Congress," said the official, who requested anonymity.