Upwards of 7,000 people demonstrated today in Moscow, on a street named after famed Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov, against the mayor’s plan to demolish thousands of Soviet-era apartment blocks across the country, and especially in the capital city. Russian citizens are concerned they will be forced in to housing away from their current district and not given enough money to replace the size of the apartment they have now in Russia’s most expensive metropolis.
The 4,500 buildings were built during the Soviet era by Kruschev in order to provide a place to live for millions of Soviet citizens. The government says Russia faces a housing crisis and the structures are unsafe. They plan to replace them with high-rise, modern apartments. However, the public feels as though developers will force residents into other, less expensive parts of the city and make large profits for themselves on the new buildings.
“People don’t quite understand the correlation between freedom and wages. But when you attack the last thing they have, they will of course protest,” Nina Braginskaya, a 66-year-old philology professor, told RFE/RL at the protest.
Braginskaya held a placard that read: “I won’t give away an inch of my home!” Other protesters held anti-Sobyanin signs, such as “I support the demolition — of Sobyanin,” “Hands off my property,” and “Moscow is not a separate kingdom. Sergei Sobyanin — respect federal laws,” reported Radio Free Europe.
Independent experts put the number of protesters at around 20,000. Famed Kremlin opponent, Alexei Navalny, who was partially blinded by chemicals in a recent attack, attended the protest with his family. As Navalny tried to reach the platform to speak, police led him, his wife, and child away. Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the housing demolition project. He was not mentioned in the protest. However, he did comment on the situation, saying, “It goes without saying that this should be done in such a way and with such means and methods so as to not breach the rights of citizens.”
At least one person was detained during the protest.