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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Battles to Keep Monuments

Moscow does not believe in tears as it fights the federal government to keep possession of hundreds of buildings in the capital.

The city is fighting with the pen. Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Vladimir Platonov, speaker of the City Duma, last week sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, said Deputy Mayor Oleg Tolkachyov.

The City Duma is prepared to go to the top and last week approved an address to send to President Vladimir Putin on the inadmissibility of appropriating historical and cultural monuments from the city of Moscow.

There are more than 2,500 historical and cultural monuments in Moscow, of which 1,600 are on the city's balance sheet, said Tolkachyov.

The Culture and Property ministries issued an order in March that all such buildings and structures with "federal significance" in Moscow be transferred to the management of a federal agency formed in December.

The Culture Ministry acted on the basis of a 1991 resolution of the Russian Supreme Soviet, signed by then-President Boris Yeltsin, which made the country's historical-cultural and natural heritage, as well as valuable works of art, the property of the federal government, states the Duma letter. The Duma asked Putin to annul the resolution on the grounds it lost force when two related laws were superseded.

The letter states that the federal government is unable to maintain such buildings. "[If] a building-monument is restored and in working order, then it most often belongs to the city."

City officials cited Petrovsky Palace on Leningradsky Prospekt as an example of a federally owned building that has fallen into disrepair. Formerly the Zhukovsky Higher Air Force Academy, it was transferred to the city and is being restored into a reception hall for City Hall.

The city government has accused the federal government of piggy backing on the city's restoration projects and swooping in to take over properties that can now generate revenues.

"This issue did not crop up [for more than 10 years] for a good reason. Monuments mean major expenses, investments in restoration and construction. But when Moscow has already invested in the monuments … and is now starting to earn very decent revenues, then the desire arose to participate in these revenues without investing anything," Tolkachyov said.

The Culture Ministry would not only have the power to designate the monuments with "federal significance," but in doing so would take possession of them.

The city and another federal body, Gosstroi, the state building committee, have been wrangling for almost a year over property ownership. Gosstroi has petitioned the government to demarcate federal zones. Gosstroi would have exclusive rights to own and develop such areas, which could include roughly half of the city's property, Tolkachyov said.

The city is not worried. The proposal is "unconstitutional," said Vladimir Plotnikov of the City Duma. The federal law on the status of the capital defines all buildings and land lots, except those used by the "highest organs of federal power," as municipal property.