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To take away and to divide up

Here’s another exclusive translation from RBK Daily, this one from Thursday, 15 May 2008. Our Russia correspondent Grigory Pasko has reported in the past on the arbitrary land seizures that await residents of Sochi in connection with the Olympics. Now the same methods are being brought to Moscow and the rest of the country. The text of the handwritten sign in the photograph reads “Hands off!!! Our house, Our fortress!! We may die, but we won’t leave.” rbcdaily051608.jpgTo take away and to divide up In Moscow private lands can now be confiscated The capital’s authorities are trying to rewrite federal legislation to suit their needs. Yesterday, the Moscow City Duma adopted an amendment to the Land Code of the RF, to allow the confiscation of private lands for state needs. By this vague formulation are implied very concrete opportunities for high-rise development lobbyists. The initiative may be transposed to the federal level, and then the conflict situation with the seizure of lands will extend to the whole country.

Today land can be confiscated from owners only for the sake of the construction of strategic facilities: electric power stations, facilities of defense and security, routes of communication.The idea of the Moscow deputies is simple to the point of indecency: what is being proposed is to simplify the procedure for confiscating and reserving lots by local authorities and to expand the list of grounds for the confiscation from owners of land lots. The amendments to Art. 49 and 70 of the Land code add to the list of such grounds the necessity for the construction on them of “facilities of social infrastructure, including multiple-apartment houses” at the expense of the budget.Now the proposals of the Moscow City Duma have been formalized in the form of a draft legislative initiative on amendments to the Land Code. Moreover at the federal scale confiscating lands of absolutely any form of ownership is being proposed. For now, the chances of this initiative to get through the State Duma are not large. However its mere appearance gives cause for concern. In the opinion of Moscow City Duma deputy Sergey Mitrokhin, the initiative of the capital’s authorities will affect millions of people all over the country and therefore is fraught with “the arising of colossal conflicts”. “What it will all lead to is that the hotbed of social tension that appeared in Yuzhnoye Butovo will grow at the scales of the country”, warns the deputy.Experts for now are more reserved in assessments. Commercial director of the company Galaxy Group Artem Tsogoyev clarifies that within the framework of this legislative initiative Moscow will be able to develop first and foremost the lands of industrial zones. “In the city there are enough enterprises, on the place of which the authorities are planning to realize development projects. Every such facility has its owner, who likewise has his eye on the lot: either he is demanding big money for it, or he has already decided himself to develop it, for example with retail real estate”, says Mr. Tsogoyev. Now the authorities will be able to confiscate the land at market price for the construction of social housing. Managing partner of the company Blackwood Konstantin Kovalev notes that the initiative with the introduction of amendments in the federal Land Code is a delayed reaction to events in Olympic Sochi: “This is nothing more than an attempt to legalize a series of actions that earlier had been justified by the need to construct Olympic facilities. Compulsory evictions in the city are taking place on the verge of arbitrariness by officials and extortion of owners. The law, on the other hand, has to at least in some way limit the parties to this process.” On the other hand, note the experts, with the adoption of the amendment, introducing the “forcible buyout” of land from an owner, the country in this sense will effectively return to the socialist past.tatiana kosobokova, natalia kopeychenko, 15.05.2008