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Rechnik Residents Seek Asylum in U.S. and Germany

Policemen standing guard as a mansion is razed in Rechnik on Tuesday. Alexander Natruskin

Rechnik residents appealed to the United States and Germany for asylum on Tuesday after demolition workers resumed razing their luxury homes in western Moscow despite a promise to give them until the weekend to move out.

The workers made people leave their homes despite an agreement between the residents and court marshals to demolish only uninhabited constructions at least until the end of the week, said Anatoly Kucherena, a lawyer and head of the Public Council committee overseeing the work of law enforcement agencies.

"We are outraged by the inhumane actions of the court marshals for banishing people to the street in minus 25 degree cold even though they had an agreement to suspend the demolition of the houses," Kucherena said, Interfax reported.

Court marshals said in a statement Tuesday that they could postpone demolition of some houses if their residents had no other place to live. At least four homes were destroyed Tuesday.

Rechnik residents sent delegations to the U.S. and German embassies to request asylum in those countries, Ekho Moskvy radio reported.

One resident, Alexander Navrotsky, said he and his neighbors were ready to tear up their Russian passports at the U.S. Embassy. "A genocide is going on here," he said of the demolition work, Interfax reported.

Repeated calls to the German and U.S. embassies went unanswered Tuesday.

City authorities started demolishing houses Thursday after several years of bitter conflict with the residents of the Rechnik and Ogorodnik communities, who over the past decade have built homes in a park along the Moscow River, which is an environmentally protected area. The city says the homes were built illegally and gave residents — who reportedly include lawmakers, governors, war veterans and celebrities — one last chance to move out Monday.

Some residents on Tuesday refused to leave their houses or let court marshals enter. One woman complained to Interfax that the house of her husband had been demolished without a court order.

(Click here for a photo essay of Rechnik by Vladimir Filonov.)

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