Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday signed a controversial law authorizing the demolition of thousands of Soviet-era Moscow apartment buildings, forcing the relocation of hundreds of thousands of residents.
The legislation was approved by lawmakers June 14 in the 450-seat lower house of parliament by vote of 399-2. The upper chamber Federation Council adopted the legislation Thursday and the text was published Saturday.
Plans to implement the law brought thousands of protesters to the streets in central Moscow in May and again in June after the Duma approved the bill.
Moscow authorities say the buildings are dilapidated and outdated, but many residents and activists see the plans as an excuse for the lucrative construction of high-rises in an already congested city whose green spaces are shrinking.
The bill calls for about 4,500 buildings erected in the 1950s and 1960s — many of them five-story blocks known as “Khrushchyovki” after Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev — to be demolished and replaced with high-rises.
An original plan had called for the demolition of 8,000 buildings but was scaled back after the protests.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said the plan is to raze the buildings starting in September in a project the authorities say will eventually set out $61 billion to develop more housing for the crowded capital of some 12 million people.
Authorities say residents relocated will be housed in apartments of an “equivalent” size — but not of equal value — in the same neighborhood.
Moscow authorities have said the apartment blocks listed for “renovation” will only be demolished if two-thirds of the apartments vote in favor.
But activists have protested that dwellings that do not vote will be considered to have voted “yes” and worry about the likelihood of falsification of results.
RFE/RL’s Tom Balmforth contributed to this report; some material for this report came from AFP.