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Russia: Putin can no longer ignore the rising solidarity

First road blocks and the first death for «duped co-investors» on hunger strike

Don’t forget that this movement assembles tens of thousands of people throughout Russia who have contributed funds or invested in the construction of housing vouched for by the local and regional authorities. Once construction stopped, they find themselves with neither money nor housing. The day before the hunger strike, begun in Moscow on April 17th and extended to May 8th, IAI had called for international solidarity. In total, 50 people from several regions in Russia participated, with 6 staying for 22 days.

The co-investors insist on the federal government’s acknowledgement of its responsibility in this politico-property fraud.

Following the first striker’s death, the people took to the streets and, after the intervention of all the movements and associations supporting the mobilisation, the strikers finally agreed to end the strike. To discourage the protest action, all the telegrams officially sent to the Kremlin were resent to the regional administrations implicated in the housing scandals, while the presidential administration refused to handle the files. On the ground, the hunger strikers were faced with all sorts of persecution from the forces of law and order who went as far as blocking access to the hunger strike grounds, confiscating passports and jamming cell phones.

A summary of the protest actions and deaths

On May 8th, Igor Vosevoi, a 38-year-old participant in the hunger strike at Ulyanovsk, died following an aneurysm. As a career military officer, he had been decorated on the decision of the President of the Federation of Russia for services rendered to the nation. In September 2005, he had invested 1.5 million roubles (43 000 euros), all that he had received from the sale of his old apartment, in the construction of a bigger apartment through an appeal for capital launched by the real-estate company « Kapstroï ». After construction was stopped and the scandal exploded, he sued. The tribunal declared the real-estate company guilty of professional misconduct and ordered it to pay 1.6 million roubles to Igor Vosevoi.

However, like most legal decisions in this domain, the decision was never honoured.

In January 2007, Igor Vosevoi approached the region’s governor to ask him to intercede on his behalf, pleading that with his income of 8000 roubles par month, he was forced to give half in payment for rent in over-priced housing.

He is dead despite his fight and without the least effort by the public authorities to solve the problem. He leaves behind him 2 daughters aged 15 and 3, as well as his wife, whose entire salary will only serve to cover the rent.

On May 15th, following the announcement of the death of Igor Vosevoi, the co-investors of Ulyanovsk demonstrated in the streets en masse. On the same day, a general assembly had been held by the movement, which invited representatives of the public authorities had snubbed. Those assembled started to scream « The authorities have killed Vosevoi ! », « Mayor, step down ! ». More than 300 people blocked the road next to the city hall. No local authorities’ representatives came out to meet them.

Thus, on May 15th, the “duped co-investors” of Saint-Petersburg went on a hunger strike. The hunger was strike meant as a warning, with a deadline of May 27th. On May 23rd, the strikers received a visit from the vice-governor of the region, after which he made a declaration to the press that the problem had been resolved.

But the strikers immediately circulated a declaration in which they explained that their principal demands (in particular, the guarantee of access to housing for the co-investors who have respected their obligations toward the real-estate companies and the State) have not been satisfied and that the protest actions will continue. Thanks to this action, the problem was acknowledged at the level of the regional authorities, who up to then had actively ignored the scandal.

The 21st of May saw the blockading of a central road in the city of Oktyabrsky (outskirts of Moscow) by several hundreds of duped co-investors. They demanded a meeting with the city’s mayor, who was forced to accept the negotiations, as the demonstrators were laying siege to the municipal administration. However, the mayor only repeated that the co-investors were obligated to pay by themselves for the completion of the construction of the 8 buildings involved in the scandal. Following the mayor’s declarations, the demonstrators blocked the principal road and were violently evicted by the forces of law and order.

Thanks to solidarity, the struggle continues

Luckily, this action enabled the setting up of a solidarity network with other protest movements in Russia, the Soviets regional coordination Union (SKS), the associations for the defence of the rights of man, and even the motorist’s movement. The campaign launched internationally by the IAI had an enormous resonance in the movement as well as in the media. The speech by Cesare Ottolini before the UN-Habitat raised much hope, which has made the co-investors and all other victims of the violation of housing rights dream of the possibility of a UN mission in Russia. Finally, the contempt shown by the public authorities for the actions of the very noble persons who died defending justice has given rise to the revitalisation of protest actions in many regions.

Next Stop : The Red Square

On the 6th of June, the duped investors are organising a large assembly at the Red Square. Will Putin still be able to ignore the rising solidarity?

All the latest information on the duped investors’ fight

All the latest information on the violation of the right to housing and the struggles of the Russian inhabitants