Moscow: Russia's biggest Vedic culture centre boasting the largest Hindu temple in the region is facing eviction in a property dispute in St Petersburg, the hometown of Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin.

The owners of the eight storey building who had leased it for 49-years to local Centre for Spiritual Development - "Another World" -- want to terminate the deal and have managed to seek court's order for its eviction for allegedly violating the fire safety rules.

However, the upper court of arbitration has stayed the eviction till March 29 on the appeal of the centre.

Chairman of the Centre Suren Karapetyan insisted that the Vedic culture centre involved in promoting the ancient Indian traditions including Sanskrit and Yoga studies among the local followers of Hinduism, had not violated fire safety rules at any point of the 49-year lease.

"We are talking about the threat of destruction of one of the largest Hindu Temple and the most unique cultural project, promoting Indian culture in Russia - St Petersburg," Karapetyan said.

Karapetyan said at the time of lease the building was nothing, but a block of bricks and the devotees had completed its construction by collecting USD 1 million donation and through 'shramdaan' (voluntary labour).

Lease deal was signed in 1992 between the state-run federal research institute, now converted into into JSC "GosNIIkhimanalit" Joint Stock Company.

"This could be the part of the anti-Hindu campaign by a section of Russian Orthodox Christian Church zealots, after their demand to seek the ban on the Bhagwad Gita, otherwise I don't understand the move for premature termination of the lease," Karapetyan said over phone.

Karapetyan said a letter requesting his intervention was sent to Prime Minister Putin in January, when the new Director of the institute wanted to convert the leased building into a profitable business centre and hinted that one of their board members was "a close relative of Putin".

The appeal was signed by thousands of St Petersburg residents.

The St Petersburg-based Indian community members, including diplomats are frequent visitors to the temple situated on one of the floors of the building in a 500 square meters hall, which accommodates up to 700 people during festival times.

Unlike the ISKCON temples it has all the Hindu deities including Radha and Krishna, Shiva and Parvati, Durga, Ganesha, Vishnu, Lakshmi and others.

Around the temple comes a huge cultural center, known as the city center for Spiritual Development "Another World", which is visited by more than 20,000 people monthly for yoga, study of philosophy, culture and traditions of India and other ancient traditions.

Karapetyan was sentenced for 'psychological sabotage' during Soviet era for clandestine printing and distribution of the Bhagwad Gita. He was released under Gorbachev's 'perestroika' reforms.
 During his India visit after his release he had also met Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

He has also sought help from the Indian mission in St Petersburg. According to diplomatic sources in Moscow, the issue is between the two Russian parties and can be decided only in the court.

"However, we can only call for taking the sensitivities into consideration while resolving this legal dispute by the Russian court," a senior Indian diplomat said speaking on condition of anonymity.