We had a piece yesterday on the recent demolitions in the Moscow neighborhood of Rechnik, where residents have accused the city government of a "land grab" in order to clear prime real estate for lucrative development plans. (See the video above.)
This morning, "The Moscow Times" is reporting that the Rechnik residents are now applying for asylum in Germany and the United States.
Rechnik residents sent delegations to the U.S. and German embassies to request asylum in those countries, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.
One resident, Alexander Navrotsky, said he and his neighbors were ready to tear up their Russian passports at the U.S. Embassy. "A genocide is going on here," he said of the demolition work, Interfax reported.
Repeated calls to the German and U.S. embassies went unanswered Tuesday.
City authorities started demolishing houses Thursday after several years of bitter conflict with the residents of the Rechnik and Ogorodnik communities, who over the past decade have built homes in a park along the Moscow River, which is an environmentally protected area. The city says the homes were built illegally and gave residents - who reportedly include lawmakers, governors, war veterans and celebrities - one last chance to move out Monday.
Among many Russians, human rights and liberal democracy have become dirty words -- abstract constructs used by the West to browbeat Moscow -- but when the middle classes feel their property and livelihood is under threat, rule of law becomes very important and very real.
-- Luke Allnutt