Anger Over Arkhangelskoye Sale

Source: Russia Today. Language: English. Duration: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

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Arkhangelskoye’s future as a heritage site is under greater threat than ever, activists say, and they are gearing up to do battle with the Ministry of Defense.

Protestors claim that the ministry has broken the rules by auctioning off a plot of land in the historical reserve.

But on the day that developers Gradostroi were announced as the prospective new owners of the disputed land, historians are bracing for a courtroom clash with the military.

Sold on the cheap

“The price they paid for the land is just ludicrous,” Ekaterina Titova, from the All-Russian Society for Historic Preservation and Cultural Organization’s (VOOPIK) department in the Moscow region, told the Moscow News.

The 20.67 hectare plot, in a prime area for development, was originally on the market at a derisory 60 million rubles ($2 million).

Gradostroi eventually paid a more substantial 755 million ($26.2 million), but campaigners say this is still nowhere near enough.

They also insist that most of the land was cannot be sold at any price because it is in a protected zone.

The government has already decreed that the territory is solely for the use of the Arkhangelskoye museum and a health resort owned by the Defense Ministry.

Court questions

An earlier attempt to halt Tuesday’s auction came to naught because the court hearing could not be scheduled before September 9th and there was no provision to delay the sale due to an unpaid court fee, RIA Novosti reported.

“The next court hearing is likely to be re-scheduled [extra paperwork needs to be done due to inner changes in the Ministry of Culture],” Titova told the Moscow News.

But activists are prepared for a “long process”, hoping that the court will declare the past auction illegal and revoke the outcome, she said.

Ministry mystified

The Ministry of Defense was “surprised by the statements made by civil organizations” claiming the deal was made within the law in an official press-release.

Gradostroi’s representatives also believe everything was absolutely legal.

“The development is to be built in the style of the estate,” Sergei Smirnov, head of the company’s planning and economical department, told the Moscow News.

The company is going use the land for low-rise cottages with infrastructure and a helipad, he added.

Smirnov added that there was no intention to break the various covenants which come with the site.

Earlier this year another scandal broke out in the former home of Prince Yusupov when companies allegedly belonging to Viktor Vekselberg were going to use the land for a luxury development.

The Moscow News
16 August, 2011