Media reports indicate at least three people were detained as roughly 300 protestors gathered outside the State Duma (parliament) in Moscow on Friday, June 9, where lawmakers were scheduled to hold the second of three votes on a controversial mass housing redevelopment project later in the day. Among those detained was Sergei Mitrokhin, head of the Moscow branch of the opposition Yabloko party. A similar protest was held on June 6 and as many as 30,000 protested in downtown Moscow on May 14. More protests and demonstrations are likely in the coming days.
Demonstrators are protesting a draft law that has been proposed by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin - initially with the support of President Vladimir Putin, although he has since softened his stance - that would replace roughly 4500 Soviet-era apartment buildings, mostly from the '50s and '60s, that currently house some 1.6 million people. The details of the proposal are vague, but those being displaced would be forced to abandon their current apartments and move into new, more modern apartment buildings. Opponents of the plan have characterized it as a scheme to enrich the powerful construction industry, among other criticisms.
More generally, political tensions are high throughout Russia. On April 27, Russia's primary opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was attacked outside of the offices of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). Unidentified attackers threw antiseptic green dye on his face for the second time this year. Navalny and hundreds of other demonstrators were arrested in anti-corruption protests that brought tens of thousands of people to the streets of cities across Russia on March 26. These were the largest coordinated protests in Russia since 2012 and, in central Moscow alone, some 700 protesters were allegedly arrested for participating in the event. Navalny spent 15 days in prison following the protests. Police and military security personnel responded to the protests in Moscow and elsewhere with barricades and tear gas; some violent clashes between police and protestors were reported in the capital. Additional, smaller protests have occurred in the intervening weeks.
Individuals present in Russia are advised to avoid all demonstrations and to anticipate transportation disruptions in the vicinity of public gatherings. It is advised to always carry proper identification papers and to cooperate with local authorities as identity checks are likely to increase during this period. Travelers should be aware that large public gatherings in Europe have been targeted by terrorist attacks in recent years; remain vigilant.
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