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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City Starts Razing Cherkizovsky

MTWorkers tearing down Cherkizovsky Market, once Europe’s biggest market, in northeastern Moscow on Tuesday.
City authorities on Tuesday began demolishing the sprawling Cherkizovsky Market, which was closed in June over sanitary and safety violations amid a broader crackdown on smuggling.

The once-bustling, 300-hectare bazaar was deserted except for several photographers and reporters, a few guards and several migrants helping clean out the market, who said they were not former vendors.

Earlier this summer, the complex in eastern Moscow employed tens of thousands of migrants, but only a few dozen were there Tuesday. Some managed to find jobs elsewhere in the city, but many have left for home amid signs that City Hall wants them gone.

Dozens of illegal migrants were deported following the closure and many others were left in dire financial straits.

The city has promised to help find new trading space for Russians who had been selling domestically made goods, but Mayor Yury Luzhkov said in July that helping accommodate “our friends from China is not our job.”

Several migrants hung onto a fence surrounding the market and silently watched a crane lifting an empty pavilion onto a truck. They said they came to see the market one last time.

Denis Saakyan, 38, and Artur Sarkisyan, 32, said they were going home to Armenia after working at the market for nine years because they didn’t hope to find another job in Moscow.

Saakyan said renting space at other Moscow markets was too expensive. He lambasted authorities for closing down the market amid a crisis. “They closed all of our options,” he said.

Windows of many kiosks showed merchandise — boxes of cigarettes, cookies and candy — scattered on floors. A man in sunglasses and a baseball cap sat on a chair, waving a large Russian flag, not far from one of the market’s open gates.

Asked whether he was guarding the kiosks from looters, he nodded. He refused to say anything about himself.

The city plans to build a fourth ring road, sports facilities, trade centers and office buildings through the market, a spokesman for the Eastern Administrative District said on customary condition of anonymity. He said there were some 15,500 kiosks to dismantle.

One tenant, Vernissage v Izmailovo, will dismantle its 600 kiosks by 2010, its director, Alexander Ushakov, told Interfax. He lamented the closure, noting that it wasn’t the first time a sports center had been planned for the area.

“Back in 1936, they were planning to host the Olympics. They were building a huge stadium for 200,000 people, but then they froze construction and the architect was shot,” he told the agency.

A few days ago, a forest ranger in Malakhovka, 30 kilometers southeast of Moscow, discovered a tent camp with some 200 Vietnamese who lost their jobs at an illegal sewing factory that made goods for the market, RIA-Novosti reported Monday.

Cherkizovsky was closed June 29 after inspectors found a host of violations there. The crackdown followed a demand by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier that month for “convictions” in the 2008 seizure of $2 billion in goods purportedly smuggled from China.