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Russia's Anti-Putin 'Singing Paratrooper' Has Car Wash Demolished

  • Claire Bigg

Mikhail Vistitsky

Mikhail Vistitsky

The Russian authorities have knocked down a Moscow car wash belonging to a paratrooper-turned-opposition-activist.

Mikhail Vistitsky, whose amateur band the Singing Paratroopers shot to fame with a song sharply critical of President Vladimir Putin, says the building was unlawfully demolished overnight.

"OMON riot police occupied the premises overnight, without any bailiffs present," he told RFE/RL.

"Without any documents or explanations, they started taking people to police buses and stations, and destroyed our building. In my opinion, this is real banditry, a real property grab."

He said many of the masked men wore no badges and refused to identify themselves.

What appears to be footage shot moments before the demolition (see below) shows vehicles belonging to supporters of Vistitsky being evacuated from the scene with their owners still at the wheel.



Vistitsky, who also rushed to the scene in a bid to save his car wash, was himself briefly detained and accused of damaging the equipment brought to knock down the building -- a charge he denies.

The former paratrooper was notified about the pending demolition in October. He was told that the car wash had been renovated in violation of city regulations and needed to be razed.

Vistitsky appealed and a court on December 24 backed him up, ruling that the bailiffs had no legal authority to order the demolition.

Some rights activists have speculated that the car wash was razed to make way for a shopping center.

Vistitsky, however, believes the destruction of his business is Kremlin retaliation for his political activism.

"This is clearly meant to pressure the opposition. That's where we held our meetings, that's where our Civic Position shows were filmed," he told RFE/RL. "The authorities obviously did not like it and took this step."

Vistitsky has been a vocal critic of Putin's regime over the past year.

His band's song "Nobody But Us" became an instant hit after being posted on the Internet in January.

The song portrays Putin as a corrupt bureaucrat, slamming him for comparing the opposition's white-ribbon symbol to a condom and calling on him to step down.

The Singing Paratroopers have since become fervent opposition activists and performed at anti-Kremlin rallies.
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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


     

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