MOSCOW – With hundreds of protesters rallying outside, the Russian parliament on Friday gave preliminary approval to a controversial plan to tear down Soviet-era, low-rise apartment blocks that would relocate 1.6 million people in Moscow.
The State Duma voted overwhelmingly to adopt the second hearing of a bill that would allow Moscow City Hall to pull down entire neighborhoods.
The redevelopment project, arguably Russia's largest, has rattled many in Moscow who see the plans as an encroachment on their constitutional rights and a ruse to evict them from leafy neighborhoods to high-rise ones on the city's outskirts.
City Hall insists that the buildings are dilapidated and their maintenance too costly. Thousands of people took to the streets last month to protest the plans in what was described as the city's largest non-political protest in years.
Several people were detained Friday at the impromptu rally of about 300 people outside the State Duma, where many protesters locked arms, chanting patriotic songs.
"I worked 13 years to buy my apartment," said Yevgeniya Dubovichenko. "I'm opposed to the very possibility that my home can be pulled down today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow in the interests of the city."
The bill will go up for the third and final reading next week, where it can only be adopted or rejected, but not amended. The Duma's pro-Kremlin majority on Friday rejected several amendments from opposition factions, including offering higher compensations for those who face eviction but would like to opt for a reimbursement rather than a government-provided apartment.
Associated Press writer Vladimir Kondrashov in Moscow contributed.