Moscow Authorities Demolish Neighborhood As Residents Look On

Moscow authorities demolish neighborhood as furious residents look on.

MOSCOW, Jan. 27, 2010 -- As the bulldozers roamed through his Moscow neighborhood knocking down homes allegedly built illegally on protected land, Sergei Bobyshev stood his ground, refusing to leave.

"We will fight to the bitter end," Bobyshev told state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

"We" included his pet leopard, Cleopatra, a "very affectionate pet cat" that Bobyshev said he may have to sic on Moscow city officials if they approached his house.

Another man, a retired military officer, reportedly threatened to set himself on fire if his home was touched. He barricaded himself inside alongside neighbors, threatening to pour boiling water on anyone trying to evict them.

Latynina calls those trying to expel Rechnik's residents "raiders." She is one of many who feel the Moscow government is carrying out a land grab, as they have been accused of doing in the past.

Fueling that theory is the nearby luxury neighborhood of "Fantasy Island," home to Moscow's wealthy businessmen and senior government officials. "Fantasy Island" was also built on land that is now protected, but no announcements have been made about its impending destruction.

The city has insisted there are no plans to develop the Rechnik land which would sell for a substantial sum. Instead, they say it will be turned a park.

"We are demolishing houses on court instructions and we will return this land to Moscovites," said Yury Allatov, western Moscow's prefect.

Rechnik's residents have announced they are organizing a mass protest for this weekend, hoping to hold on to their quiet community by the river for just a little bit longer.