MOSCOW (Reuters) - Police in Moscow used force to break up a protest outside parliament against a controversial housing resettlement programme and detained about a dozen people on Wednesday, an independent monitoring group said.
Authorities in Moscow intend to resettle over 1 million citizens from decrepit Soviet-era apartment blocks, which they plan to raze, into modern high-rise flats. But concerns about how people will be rehoused are upsetting voters ahead of a presidential election in 2018.
On Wednesday, dozens of Muscovites protested against the plan outside the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, as lawmakers inside voted to approve the legislation in its third and final reading by 399 votes to two, with one abstention.
Protesters brandished copies of the Russian constitution, reflecting their concerns that their right to own and enjoy private property is under threat. Lawmakers have made several amendments to the legislation which they say address such fears and are aimed at better protecting people’s rights.
Reuters witnesses saw policemen drag several people away, including Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of the opposition Yabloko party. The OVD-Info monitoring group, a non-profit organisation, said 15 people had been detained.
The authorities deem protests held without obtaining their advance approval of the venue and timing illegal. They often refuse such requests, citing everything from public safety to unacceptable disruption.
Thousands of Moscow residents protested against the same resettlement plan in the city centre in May.
The upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, will now vote on the legislation once before passing it to President Vladimir Putin for his approval, something he is expected to give.
Reporting by Dmitry Madorsky and Sergei Karpukhin; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Maria Kiselyova