Moscow outcry as convenience stores demolished
Authorities in Moscow have begun a big campaign to demolish street kiosks and convenience stores, sparking an outraged reaction among some residents.
Some 100 stores were to be torn down, reports said, amid claims operators had no legal title to the land.
But critics counter that the demolition, which began on Monday night and targeted dozens of stores, is itself on shaky legal ground.
Some store operators are petitioning the mayor to stop the demolitions.
The premises targeted, say observers, are often to be found outside metro stations and range from small kiosks to shopping centres with up to three floors.
As well as convenience foods, they offer services including hairdressing, photo booths, payment for mobile phones and local taxes.
The demolition campaign is believed to be part of a drive by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, to clean up Moscow's image.
Supporters claim the convenience kiosks were irregularly constructed during the construction boom of the 1990s, obstructed pedestrians and impeded access to important underground services such as gas and telecommunications.
But reaction to the demolitions on social media has been largely negative.
Some argued that due process was not followed correctly, making the demolitions themselves illegal, while others complained they left Moscow residents lacking vital goods and services.
Others said it was foolish to target small business owners in the middle of a recession, amid claims the demolitions could mean up to 15,000 people are out of a job.
Store operators protested they were not given sufficient notice of the demolitions, with many unable to clear out their property before the bulldozing began after dark. Some may be preparing legal action.
It is not clear what will happen to the land vacated in the demolitions.
Russian Orthodox archpriest Dimitry Smirnov said the land could be used to build new churches, adding: "Patriarch Alexy once said, 'The more churches we have, the fewer prisons.'"