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8 Sep, 2007 16:54

St Petersburg recalls 900-day siege

St. Petersburg is marking the 66th anniversary of the World War II siege of Leningrad by the Nazis which is considered to be the deadliest of the war. However, the commemorations were marred by city residents’ protests.

The German army encircled the city but almost three million civilians refused to surrender and endured severe food shortages.

Roughly 800,000 people died of starvation and as many as another 200,000 were killed by bombing or while defending the city.

Various ceremonies, including traditional flower-laying, are taking place across St. Petersburg to remember the dead.

But apart from those marking the deadly siege anniversary, opposition groups and other organisations came out on the streets, though saying it's not connected to the commemoration. They are calling for the government to stop destroying their city.

Demonstrators severely criticise a new Gazprom’s office – an enormous skyscraper – which they say will spoil St. Petersburg's historic skyline.

“They are going to demolish historic buildings and erect a skyscraper instead,” one of demonstrators commented indignantly.

Even a group of African students from Moscow came to speak out for saving the city.

Nevertheless the protest remained peaceful. Thousands showed up and organisers are satisfied the march went so smoothly calling it progress.

Meantime, the street became a stage not only for protesters but also for performers, who put on a kind of satirical show of what Russia would become if the opposition gained power.