Rally in Moscow Against Home Demolition

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
Thousands of people marched in the Russian capital to protest a plan to demolish decades-old apartment blocks housing more than a million people.

(Bloomberg) -- About 20,000 people rallied Sunday in Sakharov Prospect in Moscow’s downtown, according to an activist group that monitors attendance at demonstrations. Police, who stopped Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny from joining the protest, said 8,000 took part.

Russia in March witnessed the biggest anti-government demonstrations in five years, with 60,000 people turning out in more than 80 cities to protest corruption amid falling living standards after the longest recession in two decades. The rise in civic activism comes as Putin, 64, who’s expected to seek a final six-year term next March, faces an uphill task to retain people’s support because of the economic squeeze.

Faced with resistance to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s initiative to tear down 8,000 aging apartment buildings with 1.6 million tenants, the authorities cut the scale of the demolition to 4,500 buildings with one million residents. But protesters say the law working through Parliament to enact the resettlement is so vague, any house can be designated for demolition.

They accuse authorities of rushing the legislation, which has already won preliminary approval on first reading, to favor the interests of Moscow property developers that have suffered from a recent slump in real estate prices.