The Gazprom tower, which threatens to imperil St Petersburg’s UNESCO heritage status, has been the subject of several public protests of late and, as you may remember, some imaginative headlines. Now the project seems to have encountered a new adversary. An article in today’s Moscow Times reports that two state channels have offered contrasting opinions on the potential new HQ, which could signal a government rift. A Channel One report harshly criticized the plans. Interviewee Valentina Matviyenko, St. Petersburg Governor and tower approver, seemed to backtrack with a suggestion that the plans would have to wait for ‘serious government assessment’ before going ahead. Meanwhile Gazprom’s media organ NTV heartily endorsed the project (no surprises there).
Conservationists have noted that the tower would ‘stand on the site of a 13th-century fortification and a 17th-century fortress, which were uncovered during archeological excavations in the past three years.’ Be it fortress ruins or Okhta center – one of them looks likely to end up in the dustbin of history.
The Channel One critique is the strongest in a series ofpunches directed at the tower, and it signifies a lack of consensusbetween the federal government, state-controlled Gazprom andMatviyenko, analysts said. Neither of St. Petersburg’s most famoussons, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, haveweighed in on the tower, but the Channel One report indicates thefederal government’s displeasure with the development, they said.Achorus of disapproval has swelled this month. Culture MinisterAlexander Avdeyev has criticized the tower, and Federation CouncilSpeaker Sergei Mironov called it “crazy” in a statement read during aprotest of 3,000 St. Petersburgers. On Monday, Vladimir Zhirinovsky,leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, withdrew his party’s previoussupport. “If the majority of the people are against it, the LiberalDemocratic Party is with the majority,” he said, Interfax reported.