Home » НОВОСТИ » ЖИЛЬЦЫ ЕВРОПЫ » Sotchi : residents fighting against forced expulsions, arrested

Mostra/Nascondi il menu

Sotchi : residents fighting against forced expulsions, arrested

In Sotchi, the capital of the 2014 Olympic Games, the situation is becoming increasingly tense. On the one hand, the Federal Russian power, is worried about using the international event at best, to restore Russia's image, but also to carry out a radical facelift of the seaside town and its environs. On the other hand, the residents of the area are stepping up their demonstrations and protest actions against the property constructions that are devastating the historical and ecological environment.

Residents live with the daily fear of being expelled for "state needs." Those mainly concerned is the population living in the Imeretinski Plain, an outlying district of Sotchi, where most of the facilities associated with the Olympic games are to be built.

But, a major community of "old orthodox believers", which is united and proud of its traditions, lives in this district. With the support of ecological associations, a few lawyers and residents of other districts, they have already organised numerous demonstrations, many of which have ended at the police station. The most famous scandal is the aborted meeting scheduled to coincide with the visit of the Olympic Committee on April 23rd. The forces of law and order then hurried to break up the protesters before the Olympic delegation arrived. Dozens of people were injured, but the affair was hushed up. The Olympic Committee pretended to have noticed nothing, despite the many open letters they have received denouncing the attacks on their rights to housing, a safe environment, and simply,on the democratic right to gather and hold meetings.

But, the residents of Sotchi are not giving up the fight, and continue fighting to remain in their apartments, to not see their region devastated by the madness of the property market. The residents of Imeretinski are fighting to remain in their homes, on the land of their ancestors. They are asking for at least, public and democratic discussions, transparency in the rules regarding the requisitioning of lands, negotiations with residents' associations, compensation equal to the value of their losses. But except some abstract and demagogic statements by certain regional politicians, assuring them in 2007 that "no one will be forcibly expelled ...", they have received nothing of this sort.

The 'public' discussions, when held, are organised in the greatest secrecy and the critical residents are told to go look elsewhere. Compensation proposed for damages to apartments or houses to be demolished are fixed, and do not reflect the real market price of the property market, which has been increasing at a galloping pace since the attribution of the Olympic Games. The development and construction plans have not been disclosed to the public, let alone discussed. The requisitioning of lands for state use has been made increasingly easy, thanks to a recent amendment to the Land Code, which strips residents who have been removed from their lands, of any possible recourse.

What the residents' associations denounce, is, first of all , the corruption of the local and regional civil servants, who are eager to seize the financial Manna falling from Moscow, to finance "development" works; and most of all, the arbitrary use of their power to benefit the financial spin-offs of the region's property and speculative boom.

In face of this powerful political and property machine, the residents and the few ecological associations are well isolated. The Olympic lobby crushes the least revolt attempt, the media sing the changes of the Olympic project, and the courts are very partial in their judgement.

Until now, the the authorities still respected certain forms. Apparently, they have decided to charge full speed and neutralise the most ardent activists. And so, on July 22nd, the morning following the conflict between the residents and the employees of the Land Registry Services who had come to implement measures on a private property in Imeretinski, three protesters against the expulsions were arrested, and for the moment, sentenced to 12 days in prison.

On that day, geologists, accompanied by bailiffs arrived, without notifying those around the house of the wife of Dmitri Drofichev, the local leader of the movement against expulsions. They then began encircling the the perimeter of the property. Shortly afterwards, hundreds of neighbours and activists met to deny them access to the private property. They got into scuffles, which they used as a pretext to arrest the three activists, including Dmitri Drofichev, who received 15 days in jail. They accused him of threatening law and order representatives. The residents denounce the violence of the law and order forces, who were proving reinforcement, and freely used gas and truncheons to disperse the crowd.

Given that their judgements were not made public, and that those imprisoned are isolated and have no contact with the outside world, it is difficult for light to be shed on this story. There are rumours that the authorities are aiming to launch a legal process to extend prison sentences. Dmitri Drofichev's family is gripped by panic. For unknown reasons, lawyers are refusing to take on the case. The local population is being barricaded under these lands.

Three regional ecological associations addressed an open letter to the federal and regional powers, as well as to the UN and the Olympic Committee, demanding a stop to the repressions against the residents of Imeretinski. In their message, the ecology activists denounce the absence of a basis for the sentence: “they have exercised their right to civil disobedience against the activities that led to their forced expulsion. This just and well-founded action should not be a motive for repression, as it was caused by false promises made in 2007 by the regional governor and the former mayor of Sotchi, who stated that there would be no forced expulsions.”

And the statement ended with these words: "people first, then the Olympics, and not the other way around."

Carine Clément




Une video des heurts du 23 avril