Russian riot police deployed before cathedral protest

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MOSCOW (AP) — Several thousand people rallied on Wednesday in Russia’s fourth-largest city as the showdown between authorities and activists protesting the plans to a build a new cathedral in a local park entered its third day.

Thousands gathered in a riverside park in Yekaterinburg Wednesday evening. Some of them were on bicycles, more camped out on the grass while others were walking their dogs.

As night fell, protesters turned on the light on their mobile phones and flashlights, chanting “We stand for the park!”

Security measures for what has largely been a peaceful protest were heighted on the eve of the rally, with hundreds of riot police deployed to the park. Earlier, construction workers started building a new, sturdy fence to replace the chain-link fence that the protesters brought down a day earlier.

Opponents of the cathedral, which is promoted by authorities and funded by the owners of two major local industrial giants, say the construction project smack in the city center would take away green and recreational space needed by residents of a city with 1.5 million people.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Wednesday that the Kremlin has full trust in the local government to handle the protests but also decried the rallies which he described as unsanctioned demonstrations which violate Russian law.

Hundreds of protesters stayed in the park well after midnight facing several rows of riot police who were encircling the fence around the proposed construction site.

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