The city government says it wants to replace old and dilapidated housing with modern high-rise apartment blocks. But Muscovites do not trust the government, and fear they will be displaced from their homes.
Thousands of Muscovites took to the streets Sunday to protest city plans to demolish large swathes of decades-old housing blocks to be replaced by modern apartment towers.
Residents fear being pushed out of their neighborhoods into unfamiliar surroundings with unknown housing quality and local amenities. The new housing blocks being proposed by the city will price them out of the market, the protesters say.
Demonstrators carried banners that read 'Hands off our homes' and 'My house is my castle.'
Muscovites yelled "Hands off Moscow" and "No to demolition" while shouting down envoys from the office of the mayor, a staunch supporter of President Vladimir Putin who had served as his chief-of-staff.
Inna, a child-minder who refused to give her family name, told the Reuters news agency she had come to the protest to support her children who had recently bought a flat in a now-to-be-demolished five-storey apartment block.
"We've just made renovations for them [sic], and now it will be demolished," she said.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who hopes to run for president next year, also appeared at the demonstration along with his family, but he was sidelined by the police.
Supporters of the plan say the project, currently valued at some 3.5 trillion rubles ($61 billion, 56 billion euros), would enable the city to replace small, worn-out buildings with high-rise housing in the rapidly-developing capital of 12 million people.
There were widely conflicting estimates of the crowd size, with some officials putting it as low as 5,000, while protest organizers put it as high as 60,000.
There were no reports of arrests or violence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to strike a conciliatory tone, saying the development must not violate people's rights. He called on the Moscow government to amend the draft legislation.
Putin enjoys high approval ratings and despite having dominated Russian politics for the past 17 years - first as prime minister and than as president - is widely expected to run for another five-year-term in 2018.
The cheap, mass-produced, prefabricated housing blocks built in the 1950s and ‘60s were dubbed "khrushevki" - after then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. While lacking in aesthetics, these blocks provided desperately needed housing for the Soviet Union's post-war population.
bik/jlw (AP, Reuters, AFP)