Kremlin shelves plan to shut child cancer clinic
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- A plan to turn a St. Petersburg clinic specializing in treating children with cancer into a medical center for the nation's top judges was shelved Wednesday, marking a rare occasion when Russian authorities appeared to bow to public pressure.
The intention to turn City Hospital No. 31 into a clinic that would exclusively serve judges of Russia's top courts, which are being relocated to St.Petersburg from Moscow, prompted widespread public dismay. More than 100,000 people signed a petition to President Vladimir Putin, a city native, urging him to scrap the plan.
On Wednesday, the St.Petersburg Governor's office said the hospital will continue to serve patients and insisted there was no plan to change its location or profile. The Kremlin's property department also issued an assurance that the hospital will not be used to service judges of the top courts.
The about-turn contrasted with last month's decision by Putin to sign a bill banning U.S. adoption of Russian children despite public outrage. Putin, who was elected to a third term in March, has generally shrugged off opposition demands and generally avoided giving up any ground on controversial issues, apparently seeing it as a sign of weakness.
Putin hasn't made any statements on the hospital controversy.
Some activists were still doubtful that the plan had been shelved. Thousands were expected to gather for a rally against the proposal later Wednesday.
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