Protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg continue through Monday as hundreds arrested

Outraged with plans to raze thousands of Soviet-era housing complexes, citizens of Moscow turned out by the hundreds to protest the prospect of resettlement in front of Russia’s houses of parliament on Friday.

About a dozen protesters fearing displacement from their homes were briefly detained during demonstrations; some shouted or carried banners which read:  “Shame,” and “Put the renovators on trial.”

Following protests in May after the plan was announced, this is the second demonstration against to project.

Under a housing renovation plan unveiled in April, the Moscow city government plans on demolishing up to 8,000 housing units in the Bogorodskoye district of greater Moscow.  At a cost of spending ₽3.5 trillion ($61 billion), the plan is to replace the aging units with new high-rise apartment complexes.  The plan is likely to take over 20 years to be completed.

The plan amounts to be among the largest urban renewal projects in Russian history.

Affecting over 1 million residents, tenants’ main concern is what they perceive as a slight from Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin.  According to Sobyanin’s plan, residents will be relocated to apartments of similar size, but not of similar value.

Responding to a wave of anger, Sobyanin engineered a select referendum in which owners and random tenants can cast a ballot in favor of the plan or against.  Due by June 15, should two-thirds of voters disapprove, the plan will proceed.

Larger anti-corruption protests in Moscow and Saint Petersburg erupted on Monday, drawing thousands of Russians into the streets. Approximately 900 people, including opposition Progress Party leader and rally organizer Alexey Navalny, were arrested.

“My sister and I went to an anti-corruption rally. We left the Pushkinskaya metro station and after five minutes the riot police ran up to us and dragged us to the police bus, which after a few minutes was already crowded with people,” 18-year-old Anna Meigan told CNN in Moscow.

Prior to the 200-city demonstrations, the Kremlin announced that law enforcement would crack down on the protests in order to “stop provocations, mass unrest or any actions leading to a violation of public security”.

In response to the suppression of public dissent by Russian authorities, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on the Kremlin “to release all peaceful protesters,” and subsequently condemned their arrest.


[Reuters] [Moscow Times] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Reuters via BBC]