Around 100 people took to the streets in Kaspiysk, a coastal city in the Russian Republic of Daghestan, on Sunday to protest development in the city centre. Activists were demanding that Mayor Mahammad Abdullayev not approve amendments to the city’s master plan.
One of the protest organisers, Marat Ismailov from public movement Kaspiysk is Our City, was detained by police. He was taken to the Kaspiysk police station and held until the end of the rally.
Ismailov told OC Media that when he refused to go voluntarily with the police, officers threatened to find something illegal in his house and then take him to the police station.
According to the activist, he managed to photograph the officers and recorded their threats on his phone.
‘When they saw that I had photographed them, they threatened me: “I will extinguish you in this city, I will blind you, I will make you dumb and deaf”.’
‘I wrote a letter about the conduct of the [officers] to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Daghestan and the Investigation Department’, Ismailov said.
Protesters told OC Media that the police did not disperse them, but throughout the protest, they were forced to explain that they were not violating the law.
The mayor associated with investors
Khabib Aygumov, an activist from Kaspiysk is Our City, told OC Media that the amendments to the plan would allow more compacted construction in the city as well as legalising illegally constructed buildings and plots of land illegally allocated for construction.
According to him, the Mayor’s Office tried to approve these changes last year, but local residents protested and the prosecutor of Kaspiysk also filed a protest.
Aygumov told OC Media that the rally was necessary as green zones and the Caspian coast were being mercilessly built up, and there was no space considered for parking spaces and playgrounds.
Protesters had gathered at Kaspiysk’s Dagdizel Culture House, which, according to the amendments to the master plan, will be demolished and replaced by multi-storey houses.
Aygumov said that Dagdizel Plant, a local weapons manufacturer, had sold land, including the culture house, to Izberbashsky, an alcoholic drinks producer, and that they plan to transform the area into residential complexes.
The founder of Izberbashsky is the mayor of Kaspiysk Magomed Abdulayev.
The city’s chief architect, Akhmed Makhov, told OC Media that the area around the Dagdizel Culture House would be transformed into a public business zone preserving green spaces and a park, and that the building would be converted into a theatre.
A yacht club
According to Aygumov, last year, Kaspiysk is Our City and local residents managed to defend an area of the beach in which a yacht club and hotel complex were planned to be built by developer Kaspiystroynvest, another company associated with the mayor.
Izberbashsky was one of the founders of Kaspiystroynvest.
At a public hearing on the new plans on 8 October, Mukhtar Omarov, director of the Water Sports School, again raised the issue of the yacht club.
‘Today there is not a single yacht club in Daghestan, although earlier there were 2–3 of them in Kaspiysk. Today I am in favour of building a yacht club on the coastal strip with a park area. The yacht club would provide 100–200 jobs’, Omarov said.
Activists insisted at the meeting that the coast should be developed through the ‘Comfortable Environment’ federal programme rather than by Kaspiystroynvest.
Chief architect Akhmed Makhov defended the new plan at the meeting, insisting that the mayor’s office would not damage the city.
According to Makhov, the new plan ‘takes into account communal, social, and transport infrastructure, including the provision of green spaces. The municipality is going to create the municipal infrastructure at the expense of the developers since the city has no money for that.’
Local historian Magomed Abdurashidov said at the hearing that the administration should take into account the views of residents.
‘There are a lot of controversial issues on the coastline. They are used in two ways. But everyone has a right of access to the sea’, Abdurashidov said.
A commission of city hall officials will announce whether to approve the plans on 12 October.