MOSCOW May 2 Russia proposes resettling
millions of citizens from decrepit Soviet-era apartment blocks
into modern high-rise flats, but concerns about quality, a lack
of services and infrastructure could upset voters ahead of a
presidential election in 2018.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union began mass-producing cheap,
prefabricated housing to accommodate the millions of people
sharing overcrowded communal flats and even cellars and dugouts
dating from World War Two.
The then-Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, promised the
apartments, with low ceilings and tiny kitchens and popularly
dubbed "khrushevki" after him, would be lived in for no more
than half a century. Most are still occupied.
In Moscow alone, some 1.6 million people live in the mostly
five-storey peeling apartment blocks which face demolition if
the Russian parliament approves a draft law on urban renovation
and resettlement. It has already passed a first hearing.
Thousands of ddwellings in the capital have already been
"There are positives, of course. We got a new apartment
which is bigger then our last one," one resident who identified
himself as Lyubov and lives in a new block told Reuters
"But there are negatives too. "There are problems with the
apartment block, it stinks, something is rotting in the entrance
hall. There is one cleaner for the whole house."
President Vladimir Putin, in power since 2000 and widely
expected to seek another term next March, urged Moscow Mayor
Sergei Sobyanin to resettle residents "in a way that satisfies
One protest group called "Muscovites Against Demolition" has
already gathered 18,000 signatures on social media. Critics of
the resettlement law plan to hold a protest rally on May 14.
Vladimir Makhov, 53, and his ex-wife Valentina still live in
their old five-storey block. With the building marked for
demolition, nearly all their neighbours have moved out.
The couple - who share a poky flat with their pregnant
daughter and her husband - say that what they have been offered
is inferior to their existing home. But they lost their case in
court and have been ordered to move.
"The majority of our neighbours just did not fight, they did
not know how to do it," Makhov said.
He complained the flat they have been allocated is too small
and too far from the nearest metro station.
"Some fought but they gave up. We are the only ones who will
stay until the very end."
(Reporting by Maria Vasilyeva; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov;
Editing by Richard Lough)