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City news, 23.12.2005 12:58

Senators Support Court’s Move to City

russian_constitutional_court The Council of the Russian State Duma on Tuesday supported a proposal from the city’s Legislative Assembly to move the Russian Constitutional Court from Moscow to the Senate and Synod buildings.

“The senators are convinced that this historic location, which has always housed state organizations, can’t be made commercial,” Vadim Tyulpanov, speaker of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly told reporters on Wednesday.

The Legislative Assembly’s proposal followed a statement from presidential property manager Vladimir Kozhin, who expressed doubts about whether the state can afford the cost of reconstructing the buildings. At a news conference in Moscow last week, Kozhin suggested that the historic buildings, designed by the architect Carlo Rossi, may be offered to private investors.

The transfer of the Constitutional Court to St. Petersburg, if it happens, will mark the start of what has long been the dream of Governor Valentina Matviyenko, who has been promoting the idea of handing state functions to St. Petersburg since she started her job in the autumn of 2003.

So far, her plans have received little in the way of backing from Moscow, with no leading politicians having spoken out in support of her initiative. Kozhin’s statement, however, has led to the proposal for the Constitution Court to be shifted to St. Petersburg being seen by many as the only way to stop the State and Synod buildings falling into private hands.

Matviyenko said the move, if it happens, will serve to strengthen Russia’s legal system and ensure the independence of the court. “Power is overly concentrated in Moscow, and this isn’t right,” Matviyenko told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday. “Duties have to be more evenly spread in a large federal state like Russia, and the capital relieved of certain duties.”

Lyubov Sliska, vice-speaker of the Russian State Duma has backed the proposal. “This is a good thing to do to end speculations about how corrupt and dependent Russian courts are,” Sliska said on Tuesday.

But Tamara Morshchakova, formerly a judge with the Russian Constitutional Court, dismissed these hopes as naive.

“If we talk about corruption, an overnight train — and that’s all it takes to travel to St. Petersburg — can hardly be seen as a major obstacle,” she told reporters on Tuesday in Moscow. “If we’re alleging that there’s corruption, this move would make no difference.”

Politicians in St. Petersburg however, are battling on.

“I am convinced that St. Petersburg, originally created as a capital city, is fully prepared to assume some of the federal functions,” Tyulpanov said.

His comment was echoed by Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council and a former St. Petersburger. “This initiative is reasonable and well thought out,” Mironov told reporters on Wednesday in Moscow.

Members of the Russian Constitutional Court have yet to be consulted on the proposed move and have offered no comment on the issue. The court’s press office said the organization will comply with any decision made by the State Duma.

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