People walk at City Hospital No. 31 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. Russian officials on Wednesday backed off on a plan to shut a clinic specialized in treating children with cancer in order to turn it into a medical center for the nation's top judges, marking a rare occasion when authorities seemed to bow to public pressure. The authorities 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, has caused a strong public dismay. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — The intention to turn a St. Petersburg clinic treating pediatric cancer patients into one that would exclusively serve judges and staff of Russia's highest courts spread widespread public dismay.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition to President Vladimir Putin, a city native, urging him to scrap the plan to change City Hospital No. 31. Among those who signed were prominent figures from the worlds of art and sciences, including physicist Zhores Alfyorov, a Nobel Prize winner who is a member of Russia's parliament.
In a rare occasion of what appears to be the government bowing to public pressure, the plan was shelved Wednesday.
The St. Petersburg governor's office said the hospital would continue to treat patients and insisted there was no plan to change its location or profile when the Supreme Court and other top courts are relocated to Russia's second largest city from Moscow.
The Kremlin's property department also issued assurances that the hospital, located on prestigious Krestovsky Island, would not be given over to judges of the top courts.
Even so, about 1,500 people took part in a planned evening protest, with some saying they did not trust officials not to go back on their word.