The Russian Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin has signed an official statement criticizing the construction of a 403-meter skyscraper in historic St. Petersburg's city center, Russian business daily Kommersant said on Thursday.
Local authorities should recognize both Russian and international law on cultural heritage preservation, the statement said.
The Constitutional Court got involved after activist Olga Andronova challenged the constitutionality of last year's public hearings on plans by the oil arm of Russian energy giant Gazprom to build the Okhta Business Center in St. Petersburg's historic down town, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Andronova said the procedure of the hearings, organized by the city council and Gazprom in September 2009, was violated as protesters opposed to the construction were attacked by unidentified men.
She said that local authorities were turning a blind eye to the city's planning restrictions for buildings over 100 meters tall and dismissing Russia's commitment to the UNESCO heritage protection convention.
The statement, which says that every citizen of St.Petersburg should have a "real opportunity" to speak out on the city's building policies, will no doubt fuel growing public discontent on the issue.
The Court backed the view that the tower will spoil the city's historic panoramas, pointing out that cultural heritage preservation includes "natural landscapes and the relation between city areas."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre Francesco Bandarin have criticized the project but St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko is still pushing for construction to go ahead.
Head of the State Preservation Committee for St. Petersburg Vera Dementyeva said Russia will hold "serious consultations with UNESCO on this project" at the upcoming UNESCO World Heritage Committee Session in Brazil in late July.
MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti)