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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Targets Riverside Villas

City Hall is looking to raze hundreds of homes it says were constructed illegally in protected areas in western Moscow, possibly stepping on the toes of such homeowners as federal lawmakers, regional governors, wealthy businessmen and celebrities.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov, speaking on city-controlled TV Center on Tuesday, vowed to rid a park on the banks of the Moscow River of homes. He said he had given orders to cut electricity and running water to them.

"We will take the matter, regarding every building, to court and will enforce evictions," he said.

Luzhkov also set up a special group Tuesday, tasking it with demolition of illegal buildings throughout the city, not just the Krylatskoye park area.

City authorities are first trying to establish the owners of the 845 houses and ask them to prove their rights to the properties, said Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental agency, who initiated the campaign earlier this year.

Homebuilding is banned in parks, but the government has allowed Muscovites to grow gardens in this particular spot, known as the Rechnik and Ogorodnik gardening communities.

"By law, only apple and pear trees can grow there," Mitvol said by telephone Wednesday. He stated that city authorities should raze all of the houses.

State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein said at a Tuesday news conference that many of the houses belonged to his fellow lawmakers, regional governors, billionaires and celebrities. He did not name them.