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| UNESCO & ICOMOS


() - 191123, .-, . , , 14 . 273-52-22

Dear Mr, Araoz,

We are addressing you as the President of the International Council for Monuments and Sites in order to express our grave concern with the circumstances preceding the 34* Session of the World Heritage Committee.

Among the issues that are going to be resolved at this session, there are a state of conservation report and a decision on the World Heritage Site C540 "The Historic Centre of Saint-Petersburg and related groups of monuments" (see WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, pp. 165-169). We consider it our duty to inform you, that this document contains a wrong statement, caused either by insufficient information or intentional deception of the World Heritage Centre by the Russian authorities, related to the construction of the Gazprom skyscraper - Okhta Centre Tower.

The report states, that "on 1 June 2010, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the President of the Russian Federation had considered and approved proposals of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia for the property. The State Party reported that the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation had especially noted the decision of the World Heritage Committee which requested that work on the construction of the Okhta Centre Tower be suspended and that new designs reducing the building's height be considered."

Based on that information, the draft decision of the World Heritage Committee includes the

following statement:

The World Heritage Committee,

4. Congratulates the State Party for its decision to suspend work on the construction of the "Okhta

Centre ";

Unfortunately, this is not true. There has never been any official decision to cease or suspend work or this project. According to the official statement by Natalia Timakova, Press Secretary of the President of Russia, "the letter of the President does not contain any guidelines specifying which decision should be made". She also stressed, that the decision is to be made by local authorities, not by the President. Later Mikhail Oseevsky, Vice-Governor of Saint-Petersburg, declared, that the letter of the President "does not contain any specific directions to suspend of revise this project". Therefore, the World Heritage Committee has no reasons to congratulate the State Party for the decision to suspend work on the construction of the "Okhta Centre".

The State Party also informed the World Heritage Centre, that the "Okhta Centre" project "undergoes expert city planning evaluation, and judicial investigation by the public prosecutor". Unfortunately, the State Party did not inform the World Heritage Centre, that the public prosecutor's office has denied to perform the investigation on the grounds that this issue is being tried at -Stnolninsky District Court on the claim by citizens of Saint-Petersburg. This is the same court, that has also appointed the above mentioned expert evaluations. Yet the judgement of the court, which is

negative for the claimants, states, that "the statement of the expert committee allows a conclusion that the protected views and panoramas will stay intact", which is directly opposite to the opinion of two experts of the five. This is undermining the very possibility of an independent expert evaluation in Saint-Petersburg.

Beside that, we are seriously concerned with the attempts of the Saint-Petersburg City Government to push through the World Heritage Committee their plan of dramatically reducing the boundaries of the World Heritage Site "Historic Centre of Saint-Petersburg" - even on the cost of the revocation of the World Heritage status and submitting a new application. In reality that would cause the destruction of Saint-Petersburg as a unique implementation on a large scale of a European planned city build in harmony with a surrounding landscape, and limiting its outstanding universal value to the ensembles of central streets and squares. Moreover, it will open the opportunity for modern high-rise construction in the areas that are still considered parts of the historic centre of the city.

The new proposed boundaries of the suburban components of this World Heritage Site have never been openly discussed either in public or in the expert society in Russia. Nowadays the Saint-Petersburg City Government is maintaining the work on defining the new statement of Outstanding Universal Value and further modification of the boundaries in deep secret from the professionals. Moreover, this work is done solely by the local authorities, which is a contradiction to the Russian legislation. All relevant federal bodies are avoiding participation in it.

Therefore we are asking you consider these issues during the discussion of the decision of the 34lh Session of the World Heritage Committee, and suggest the following alterations to the draft text of the decision:

a) replace cl.4 of the Decision with "Strongly encourages the State Party to announce officially that the concept of a 400 m skyscraper is abandoned and work on the project is suspended", and specify the time limits for such announcement;

b) specify in the Decision, that in the lack of a direct official announcement of the abandonment of the project within the specified time limits, the Historic Centre of Saint-Petersburg will be included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger without any other discussion;

c) add to cl.8 of the Decision a statement, that the option to reduce the boundary limits of the World Heritage Site and re-nominate it is undesirable and contradicting the recommendations of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS;

d) suggest the State Party to maintain development of the statement of Outstanding Universal Value and boundary modifications by the competent federal bodies and only after an open discussion of the forum with Russian and international experts, appointed by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude for your most outstanding help is saving the World Heritage from destruction. The destiny of the historic centre of Saint-Petersburg now lies in your hands.

Most sincerely,

Alexander D. Margolis

Co-chairman of the Saint-Petersbung Society for Preservation of Monuments of History and Culture

AlexeyA. Kovalev

Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Saint-Petersburg,

Member of the Saint-Petersburg City Council for Heritage Preservation

Annexes:

1. Brief summary of the case at Smolninsky District Court and the judgement of the court (in Russian).

2. Reports of statements by Natalia Timakova, Press Secretary of the President of Russia and Mikhail Oseevsky, Vice-Governor of Saint-Petersburg in-the Russian media.

3. Official response from the public prosecutor's office regarding the case (in Russian).


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