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Ban on Kiev massacre-site hotel

28 September 09 11:59 GMT

The mayor of Kiev says he has overruled a decision by the city's council to allow a hotel to be built at the site of a Nazi massacre during World War II.

The approval of plans to build near a monument to victims of the Babi Yar massacre, where 34,000 Jews were killed in 1941, had been widely criticised.

Proponents had said the Ukrainian capital needed more hotels for the 2012 European Football Championships.

Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky's decision was welcomed by the Israeli government.

President Shimon Peres praised him for "having taken this just and important decision which preserves the memory of the Shoah [Holocaust] as an education for future generations".

The Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem said Mr Chernovetsky had clearly taken into account the protests of Jewish groups worldwide.

"Babi Yar is a memorial site not only for Jews but for the whole of Europe... It would have been inconceivable to turn it into a commercial centre," its committee president, Avner Shalev, told the AFP news agency.

However, a senior city councillor, Viktor Hrinyuk, said last week that the hotel would not have disturbed any remains and that the plans had not been final.

The hotel would have been built on what according to Jewish scholars was the middle of the main site of the massacre.

On 29 and 30 September 1941, 33,700 Jews were rounded up and shot at the edge of the Babi Yar ravine.

Over the following months, the Nazi authorities filled the ravine with an estimated 100,000 bodies, including those of non-Jewish residents of Kiev and Soviet prisoners-of-war.

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