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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Petersburg Citizens Protest Hotel Project

ST. PETERSBURG -- Residents of St. Petersburg's Petrogradsky district last week protested against plans by joint-stock firm New Technologies to build a 30-meter-high hotel in Lopukhinsky Garden.

In June 2004, City Hall gave the company a construction permit to build on a 6,700-square-meter plot inside the garden, which will mean destroying a hockey field if New Technologies proceeds with the project, the residents said.

"Lopukhinsky Garden is a rare island of rest and beauty, or simply a stimulating place left in the city," said Tatyana Likhanova, a coordinator of the protest group.

"As far as we know, some influential person connected with the construction of the Konstantinov Palace [the presidential headquarters in the northwest] is involved in this project," she said.

"We've been told that City Hall officials expressed grave doubts to [Governor Valentina Matviyenko] about this project," she said. "They told the governor that it violates the city's protection zone. But Matviyenko wouldn't listen, saying she had been asked to approve it, she would do it and she didn't care."

Matviyenko's spokeswoman had no comment.

The permit for the hotel was reportedly one of the last documents signed by City Architect Oleg Kharchenko before he left Matviyenko's team in June 2004.

In support of their position, the residents cite the federal Land Code, under which Lopukhinsky Garden is considered a plot of land for public use, a status that was conferred on it by City Hall in September 1993.

In 2002, the garden was included in a list of protected sites of federal significance that was approved by the government. The list mentions the garden itself, its system of ponds and the holiday house of pre-revolutionary merchant Vasily Gromov. The boundaries of the zone were defined by a government decree issued on July 20, 2001.

New Technologies owned a water pavilion of 239 square meters in the garden before acquiring the hotel plot.

"For some strange reason, a private company got, in one go, a plot of land 30 times bigger than it originally owned," Likhanova said. "And it got it without any competition or open sale, a few months after a City Hall regulation that came into force in June last year stated such deals could only be signed after an open tender."

New Technologies could not be reached for comment.

City Hall officials responsible for construction planning seemed unable to explain how the permit could have been issued.

"I found out about it a week ago," said Boris Nikolashchenko, head of the First Construction Workshop at City Hall's committee for construction planning.

"This is a calm and nice place that would be harmed by such a project," he said. "There are projects that fit certain places and those that do not. This one does not fit."