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Top Court Marshal Defends Officers in Rechnik Scandal

The country's top court marshal on Wednesday defended his subordinates against criticism for their role in the demolition of cottages in the local Rechnik settlement, saying they were merely carrying out their duty to execute court orders.

Artur Parfyonchikov, head of the Federal Court Marshals Service, said his marshals committed no violations in razing 20 cottages in Rechnik and that any complaints should be addressed to the courts that issued the orders.

City authorities have come under fire from the public and officials for demolishing the homes, with even state-owned federal television channels giving ample airtime to the village's outraged residents, who deny the city's claim that their homes were built illegally.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, whose ministry oversees Parfyonchikov's service, said that in some regions court marshals are used as a "truncheon" against citizens, though he did not elaborate.

No further demolitions would be carried out until an investigation by the Prosecutor General's Office into the Rechnik conflict is completed, Parfyonchikov said. He also addressed speculation about the fate of the historic artists' colony Sokol in northern Moscow and the posh Fantasy Island development that includes homes owned by senior government officials. Parfyonchikov said his service had no orders to tear down the two settlements, but added that it planned to raze part of another luxury neighborhood, the Virazh yacht club in northwestern Moscow. About five buildings are to be demolished at the yacht club, Parfyonchikov said.

Having accrued considerable powers to enforce court orders in recent years, court marshals have faced public criticism for purported abuses. Parfyonchikov said he is trying to increase transparency in the service. Authorities last year opened 618 criminal cases against employees of the Federal Court Marshals Service last year, up 16 percent from 2008, he said.

“We need to get citizens' attention both for our good deeds and our misdeeds,” said Parfyonchikov, who worked as a prosecutor before joining the court marshals service in 2008.

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