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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Life in Shadow of White House

When Pyotr Zhukov, a half-blind pensioner, walked from the metro to his home next to the besieged White House Thursday, he was forced to show his passport seven times to riot police patrolling the streets.


He had to brave freezing rain to pick up medicine that his son handed over at the station Barrikadnaya, a 30-minute walk.


"They won't allow my son to visit me so I have to go through a nightmare", Zhukov, 80, said Thursday, excitedly waving his arms. "It's outrageous, "I'm a hostage in my own city. When will it stop? "


Many of the people living on Ulitsa Rochdelskaya and other streets around the parliament say they cannot take much more of the week-old siege around the White House.


All day and night the two sides exchange propaganda through loudhailers, keeping residents awake; telephone lines have been cut; the streets are filled with riot police; demonstrators ring their doorbells in the middle of the night asking to use their toilets . . . the list of complaints goes on.


Zhukov, who proudly announced that he was Russia's official look-a-like of the former East German leader Erich Honecker, added that he would go on a hunger strike if the city authorities did not turn his telephone back on.


He was already collecting signatures of other volunteers in his building willing to join him.


A small drama being played out in one of the apartment block entrances typified the situation.


Two "defenders of the White House" were trying to break down a door that would lead them straight toward the barricades. Carrying bags bulging with bread, cheese, sausage and cigarettes, the two elderly women hoped to dash past the police and bring the food to fellow demonstrators.


But Marina Zyapkina, who lives in the building, had no sympathy for their mission.


"My children cry every night because of the noise, my husband was searched for weapons and now you communists come and break down our house", she screamed. "If you don't leave, I'll call the police".


One of the women, Lyudmila Malkhasyan, who left the White House on Wednesday to "tell the Russian people the truth and buy food", retorted that Zyapkina should be ashamed of herself.


"You should be out there defending the constitution, instead of complaining about your petty worries", Malkhasyan snapped back.


"Go to the Kremlin and picket there, but leave us alone", Zyapkina said.


Her two daughters Alexandra, 5, and Katya, 7, looked frightened as their mother almost burst into tears.


A patrolling police officer, overhearing the shouting, came over to end the dispute and sent the two defenders home and promised to search the building for "other hooligans".


But tired of serving a 24-hour shift in the rain and fed up with endless complaints from residents, the policeman simply returned to his colleagues to have a cigarette.


"Who can keep order in this country? " Zyapkina asked, letting out a deep sigh.


A few people, however, said they liked being in the thick of events.


"I can see exactly what's going on from my balcony", said Anna Zoryanova, a cook at the canteen of Itar-Tass. "Unfortunately it isn't very spectacular. The August 1991 putsch was much more exciting".


"The weather was better too, which made it more fun to watch", she added, standing shivering on her seventh floor balcony. "And if something does happen, I can't call anyone, because our phones have been cut off".