Russian MPs back Moscow demolition project despite protests

media captionSeveral people were arrested in Moscow after a rare, angry - and unsanctioned - protest outside parliament

Russian MPs have passed a controversial law to start demolishing more than 4,500 old Soviet-era apartment blocks in Moscow, despite big protests.

It is the biggest demolition project ever seen in Russia's capital and the rehousing is to begin later this year.

Opponents say their right to private property has been infringed and fear being moved to remote tower blocks.

The Duma (lower house) backed the law overwhelmingly. The revised text allows residents to vote against demolition.

MPs included a mechanism allowing residents to take their apartment block off the demolition list if more than one-third vote to do so. That vote can take place at any time.

A demolition decision can also be blocked if residents take the matter to court. The option of a legal appeal was not in the initial draft of the law.

The affected flats are mostly five-storey blocks thrown up quickly in the 1950s and 60s to deal with a post-World War Two housing crisis.

They are called "Khrushchevki", after then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

image copyrightEPA
image captionThere were more arrests outside the Duma on Wednesday in the demolition dispute

In recent months thousands of Muscovites have rallied against the demolitions.

Several protesters were detained outside the Duma on Wednesday.

The law still requires approval by the upper house - the Federation Council - and the signature of President Vladimir Putin.

That approval is expected - and Mr Putin has backed the demolitions.

Moscow City Hall has pledged to start building new flats for the affected residents before the end of this year.

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