Moscow To Protest Mayor Sobyanin’s Grand Design

May 11, 2017

On Sunday May 14 citizens will gather on Moscow’s Sakharov prospect to protest against the illegal demolition of thousands of homes. The historic project, drawn up by Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin with the endorsement of Vladimir Putin, has attracted widespread condemnation for its disregard of Russian law and brutal lack of concern for the wishes of Moscow’s residents.

The project, which is predicted to take around 20 years to complete, is one of the largest demolition and relocation projects in the developing world and will potentially lead to the displacement of over a million people. Thousands of Khrushchevki — Moscow’s five-story apartment blocks built under Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev — are due to be knocked down and their residents relocated in a chaotic move that has drawn criticism from all areas of society.

Whereas for some the project is a welcome attempt to renovate decrepit apartments, for many it is an intrusion of the state upon citizens’ private property. The project encompasses approximately 25m square meters of property that is situated in particularly lucrative areas, raising questions as to the motives behind the $60 billion plan.

Journalist and demonstration organiser Ekaterina Vinokurova has commented on Sobyanin’s grand design: “In its current form the project is in such stark contradiction with the constitution that it should be withdrawn in its entirety.”

The behaviour of the authorities has shown citizens that the government is willing to violate both the law and the constitution in order to advance its own interests. Debate has raged on social media about the guarantee of property rights under the Russian constitution, and whether a case can be made to prevent the authorities from destroying property that has belonged to some families for over half a century.

Citizens are making the logical conclusion that if the government is ready to violate the constitution of the Russian Federation, then that government is itself illegitimate. Therefore, the May 14 demonstrations are set to join the long list of anti-government protests that have occurred over recent months and have seen historically high turnouts, as well as record numbers of arrests.

Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov has called for his supporters to join the May 14 demonstrations: “We Moscow citizens must stand up to those who are trying to decide on our behalf how we should live in our own city.”

Over 6000 people have already signed up for the May 14 demonstrations on social media and many more are expected to turn up in support of civil society that has time and time again been disregarded by the authorities.

The Open Russia movement is planning to participate in the demonstrations and is working to raise awareness, as well as offer legal help to citizens who are caught up in the scandal. Events will begin at 14:00 on Sakharov prospect in Moscow this Sunday.

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