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Russia blows up Soviet-era landmark in World Cup city

No one seriously believes that the city needs such a symbol.'

World Cup city

As part of city beautification for this year's football World Cup, the Urals city of Yekaterinburg has demolished its most notable landmark - a rusty, brutalist, half-finished Soviet-era television tower built in the middle of the city.

Local authorities in 11 host cities including Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Yekaterinburg are working hard to put the last touches beautifying the cities in preparation for the June 14-July 15 tournament.

But in Yekaterinburg, hundreds of people opposed to the television tower's demolition by controlled explosion took part in a Hug the Tower rally earlier this week.

Eugene Kuivashev, the local governor, defended the decision to demolish it.

"No one seriously believes that the city needs such a symbol," he said in a radio interview.

Ivan Volkov, a 39-year-old lawyer and head of a committee opposing the tower's removal, said the 720-foot-high (219 metres) concrete structure had been a symbol of the city's identity.

"Now, it's the symbol of the people's humiliation at the hands of the authorities because the decision was made behind-the-scenes. It shouldn't be done this way," Volkov told Reuters news agency.

The tower's construction started in 1983 under the communist rule, but it was never completed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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