Arabtec Construction has started initial foundation tests at the site of the controversial Okhta tower in St Petersburg after being awarded a Dh50 million (US$13.6m) contract.

Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of the state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom, won final approval from the city’s authorities for the 400-metre tower, which could become the tallest in Europe, despite public opposition to the plans and protests from UNESCO.

UNESCO has warned that St Petersburg’s historic centre could be struck off the World Heritage list if the skyscraper, which will be Gazprom Neft’s headquarters, is built. However, city authorities decided to waive planning rules banning buildings taller than 100 metres in St Petersburg, to allow the tower to go ahead.

The National