MOSCOW, Nov 4, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 04th Nov, 2016 ) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday unveiled a giant statue by the Kremlin of his namesake Vladimir the Great, a revered leader and Orthodox saint, that has faced criticism from locals and conservationists. The 17-metre monument of Vladimir, the prince who converted modern Russia's precursor state Kievan Rus to Christianity in 988, has sparked controversy over fears it could blot Moscow's historic centre.
The opening of the statue -- backed by the influential Orthodox Church -- comes as the authorities under Putin continue to stoke a wave of nationalism fired up by Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent standoff with the West. "Prince Vladimir has gone down forever in history as the unifier and defender of Russian lands, as a visionary politician," Putin told officials as Russia marked its national Unity Day holiday. "Today our duty is to stand up together against modern challenges and threats by basing ourselves on this spiritual legacy.
" The decision to erect the monument just yards from the famed Kremlin walls has sparked an outcry from local conservationists and prompted concerns from UNESCO that it could jeopardise the Kremlin's status as a World Heritage site. Local authorities only came up with the location after tens of thousands of Muscovites signed a petition against an earlier plan to place the monument on a prominent hill overlooking the city. The statue was initially intended to be some 24 metres tall and weigh approximately 300 tonnes but it was scaled down after it was shifted to central Moscow.