On second day of anti-cathedral protests, Yekaterinburg residents toss fencing into ponds and try to avoid arrest
A spontaneous protest against the destruction of an open square to build a new cathedral in central Yekaterinburg stretched from the evening of May 13 into the early morning. Police officers left the square around midnight without dispersing protesters. On the evening of May 14, the square’s defenders — and their opponents — went face-to-face again.
Sverdlovsk Oblast governor Yevgeny Kuivashev held negotiations with both sides in the afternoon. The meeting took place behind closed doors, and journalists assigned to cover it were allowed inside for the formal segment of the negotiations only. The new cathedral’s supporters and opponents were unable to reach a compromise; the regional government announced that the construction plan was legal and that there is currently no basis to cancel it. Government officials suggested establishing a new square with green space in a separate location. Regional leaders also called on Yekaterinburg residents to avoid unsanctioned protests, but they avoided answering directly when asked whether there would be mass arrests at the upcoming demonstration that evening.
Local authorities refused to approve a prayer meeting for the cathedral’s supporters. On the morning of May 14, the Yekaterinburg Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church called on locals to join a prayer meeting in support of the construction project at 7:00 PM. The city’s public safety ministry did not approve the meeting, which falls under the same public events regulations as a mass protest would. The eparchy initially rescheduled the prayer meeting for May 16 before postponing it indefinitely.
A court fined two participants in the May 13 protest. Police officers reportedly arrested three people during the protest. Two of them have already received administrative penalties in the amount of 1,000 rubles (about $15) each for small-time hooliganism.
Up to 2,000 people have reportedly arrived for a second night of protests. The demonstrators almost immediately knocked down fences surrounding the planned construction site. Some threw a part of the fencing into the nearest pond. Police soon began arresting the protesters: at the time of this writing, between 15 and 30 arrests have been reported. Police officers formed a human chain and encircled the planned construction site. The groups of aggressive young men who had attacked protesters the night before also returned and initiated a new round of clashes.
Late at night, riot police began moving people out of the square. Officers formed a chain and began pushing the crowd away from the site of the protest without using weapons or tear gas. The local outlet Yekaterinburg Online reported that some people in the crowd threw stones at the police. Meanwhile, arrests continued. No official data on the number of individuals arrested is currently available.
Translation and updates by Hilah Kohen