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Protests over forced resettlement in Makhachkala

25 July 2018
Protest in centre of Makhachkala (Saida Vagabova /OC Media)

A small group of people gathered in the central square of Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan, on 20 July protesting their pending eviction from their houses. The buildings are due to be demolished as part of a federal resettlement programme for people living in dangerous or unstable housing, but the occupants insist their current housing is safe and that they do not want to move. Some have accused the authorities of using the programme as a ‘land grab’ to acquire valuable land in the city centre.

The protesters, residents of Makhachkala’s Perova Street, had been offered new houses constructed near the former hippodrome, between Makhachkala and Kaspiysk, but they have said the new houses are poorly constructed.

‘There is no accomodation for the elderly or disabled near the former hippodrome. There is no transport, no medical facilities or shops nearby. They only built a kindergarten, but it doesn’t operate. In the new houses, there’s no electricity, no water, no gas. Because of the move, many people will lose their jobs’, one protester told OC Media.

Ten people participated in the demonstration demanding a meeting with the acting head of the Daghestan, Vladimir Vasilyev, and the Chairman of the Government, Artyom Zdunov. A similar protest took place on 20 June.

Residents of Perova Street told OC Media that the Dagestani officials never met with them. Although the protesters submitted official appeals for a meeting, they said they are certain the officials were never told. ‘We wrote dozens of appeals […] to Vasilyev and Zdunov, but they never responded’.

Makhachkala Mayor Abusupyan Gasanov met with protesters on 20 July, and according to them, promised the authorities would build new houses for them. After this the demonstrators left.

‘We don’t demand anything from the authorities. Leave us alone in our houses, or give us a builder who will put up decent houses in the area [where we already live]’, one protester told OC Media following the meeting.

Problematic resettlement

The federal resettlement programme for dangerous housing was officially to be completed by the end of 2017 — with new houses to be built, residents moved in, and old housing demolished. In Makhachkala, the programme is still far from completion. Several houses were built behind schedule, with construction only completed on time on one street.

New house constructed near the former hippodrome, between Makhachkala and Kaspiysk. (Ruslan Alibekov /OC Media)

People being resettled have refused to move into the new houses because they say they are poorly constructed, with defects in the buildings and cheap construction materials reported by the federal authorities financing and implementing the programme, according to Chernovik.

In some houses, flooding of basements, corrosion of support columns, cracks, signs of leaks on the upper floors, cosmetic defects, lack of water and electricity connections, and more were identified.

The developer in these cases was construction company Granite, which has been connected to Daghestan’s former Minister of Construction, Housing and Communal Services Ibragim Kazibekov. Kazibekov went into hiding after a criminal case was launched against him in February for overstating the cost of housing during construction under the resettlement programme.

The relocation process was also delayed due to litigation between the city administration and the participants of the programme.

A ‘land grab’

Zagidat Surkhayeva

According to lawyer Zagidat Surkhayeva, the lists of houses in the resettlement programme was formed in order for the authorities to ‘grab’ pieces of valuable land in the centre of the city, with most of the houses located near the Caspian coast.

Surkhayeva told OC Media that in 2014, she successfully defended in court her own house from being subjected to demolition under the programme. After this, she said that others being relocated began to contact her.

‘There are dozens of lawsuits from both the residents and the administration in the courts now’, Surkhayeva said. ‘It’s possible to win cases, because in 2011, when the administration prepared the lists and documentation for the programme, the procedure for identifying dangerous housing was violated.’

According to Surkhayeva, before a building is added to the programme the authorities must commission an expert examination of the property to prove that it is dilapidated and in a dangerous condition, ‘but, this wasn’t done’.

She told OC Media she believes the documents adding houses to the programme were falsified, as many contain obvious errors such as single-story houses described as two-story houses.

Three hundred homes were on the programme’s original list, according to Surkhayeva, all supposedly inspected in a single day. She said many of the residents she spoke with had not seen an inspector in their building.

In July and August 2017, Surkhayeva wrote to the Daghestan’s Prosecutor’s Office and Investigative Committee with statements from residents alleging the falsification of inspection documents.

According to her, the Prosecutor’s Office redirected the appeal to the city administration, after which police summoned residents for questioning, but no further actions were taken.

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