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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rallies Turn to Defense Ministry

MTA protester taking part in last week's housing rally at the Defense Ministry.
The recent spate of protests by would-be homebuyers shifted attention last week to a new and unlikely target -- the Defense Ministry.

About 100 protesters rallied on Wednesday in front of the ministry's headquarters on Arbatskaya Ploshchad, accusing it of inaction over delayed construction projects that it commissioned. The protesters said they paid for apartments in buildings that were to be constructed on the ministry's land.

Viktor Melchekov, speaking for buyers of property at a residential complex in the Moscow region town of Yubileiny, said that construction, originally due to be finished in 2004, was first delayed and then stopped completely in spring 2005. He blamed a 2004 State Property Ministry decree that increased the federal ownership of the completed buildings to 34.87 percent, up from the 22.5 percent stipulated in the contracts signed in 2003, which had made the project unprofitable for the private construction company.

The second reason for delayed construction, Melchekov said, was that the Defense Ministry still had not prepared official documents for the lease of the construction site.

Vasily Lavrenyuk, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said that the ministry did not have enough funding to swiftly produce ownership documentation for all the land it had been granted in Soviet times. He said that prior to the law governing the financing of residential construction, in force since April 2005, it was legally possible to prepare the proper documentation during the process of construction.

Lavrenyuk added that the ministry had no power to negotiate the new higher federal ownership requirement and that it would be held liable for contracts signed under different terms. No one at the Federal Property Management Agency, which has replaced the State Property Ministry, was available for comment.

Another group at the rally distributed a five-page description of a construction project commissioned by the Defense Ministry in 1995, claiming that the ministry retained for its own use 125 apartments paid for by private investors and completed in 1998. Lavrenyuk declined to comment on the project.

The protesters also complained that residential buildings commissioned by the ministry could not be investigated by committees that Moscow and Moscow region authorities had created to resolve construction disputes because they did not fall under the jurisdiction of these authorities, but rather that of the Defense Ministry.