Green battles: Muscovites demand their park back

A group of Moscow residents have almost won a 10-year fight over the use of a local park.

 Since the days of former mayor Yuri Luzkov, a small group of united Muscovites have been campaigning to city and state authorities over the ownership of a local island of greenery.

Morozovsky Park, a quiet retreat to escape the rigors of the city, has been short of peace in the recent years.

One beautiful morning, local residents woke up to find that the island of greenery was closed to the public. Since then, they have been struggling to reverse the ban.

They have been lobbying to gain public access to this park for no less than 10 years. In 2010 they decided to step the litigation up a notch, taking their cause to the State Duma, which was where their case was finally heard.

“The public prosecution office has ruled that the deed of ownership transfer in regard to the Morozovsky Park sanctioned by the Moscow government is illegal,” said Aleksandr Ageev, a deputy from the Fair Russia party,.

Still, even with this latest ruling, the result of a long battle, fought through petitions and people power, the conflict is far from over.

Despite the court order, the park’s current owners have proved reluctant to relinquish control. Local residents have complained that the park is only being opened summarily when officials show their face.

The local community is still being denied a family area that they see as theirs.

“It’s about the future of my children,” local resident and mother-of-three Anna told RT. “The situation with parks and with illegal public property takeover has grown very acute lately.Buildings get taken over, and it’s very hard to prove the truth because of corruption and issues like this.”

In its heyday, the area featured a children’s kindergarten and was the setting for several Soviet- era films, resulting in its classification as a state cultural site.

This did not stop former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov from leasing the land and accompanying building back in 2001, with construction firm Interstroy proving the benefactors.

Ever since, local community leaders have claimed it was never Luzhkov’s to hand over.

“We still have a battle to fight over the mansion which is part of the park,” Ageev says. “I think that the construction company Interstroy will try to employ all their capacities and resources to appeal against this decision and keep this mansion, but I believe that together with the active citizens we’ll be able to appeal to the top officials of our country and prevent any illegal decisions.”

The local community’s demands do not end there. Once the park is opened to the public, they want Mayor Sergey Sobyanin to return the park to its former glory by building a place for children to play.

They also plan to turn their attention to other similar disputes in the city, employing similar tactics – with the local community being the main weapon in their arsenal.

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