PARIS – A French court ruled Wednesday that a Russian Orthodox cathedral built on the French Riviera nearly a century ago under Czar Nicholas II now belongs to Moscow.
The ruling by the Nice court is the latest development in Russia's bid to obtain ownership of Orthodox edifices around the world; Italy last year amicably returned to Russia a church in the southern city of Bari.
Wednesday's ruling was a defeat for an association founded by Russians who fled the Bolshevik Revolution that has been fighting to maintain its control over the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, and its archbishop is accusing the Russian government of a land grab as part of a national pride campaign.
Father Jean Gueit, the cathedral's archpriest, said the ornate cathedral has become a "political tool" — and he vowed to appeal the court decision.
But Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Archpriest Nikolai Balashov said, "We see the ruling of the Nice court as the restoration of historical justice," according to RIA Novosti news agency.
Russia said the only change it plans is to stop charging an admission fee to people visiting the building.