Gazprom must relocate controversial tower: governor

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The ambitions of Gazprom were dealt a symbolic blow Thursday when Saint Petersburg's governor prohibited the gas giant from building a skyscraper in the centre of Russia's imperial capital.

"We have held talks with Gazprom and reached a final decision to move this project to a different location," news agencies quoted Governor Valentina Matviyenko as saying, in a reversal of her previous support for the project.

She said her government would also reimpose a ban on tall buildings that it had temporarily lifted to allow the powerful company to proceed with plans to build its new headquarters.

Plans for the 403-metre (1,322-feet) glass skyscraper had sparked fears that it would spoil the low-rise skyline of the city, whose centre is protected by UNESCO, and the project was recently slammed by the Russian culture minister.

Saint Petersburg is the native city of Russia's former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has publicly backed the idea.

But last year, a leaked letter revealed opposition to the plan from current President Dmitry Medvedev, who also comes from Russia's second largest city.

Political analysts have suggested that Matviyenko may now be trying to save her seat in power following Medvedev's dismissal in September of another powerful local leader, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

© 2010 AFP

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