Moscow city officials, in a surprising move, unleashed bulldozers overnight for the demolition of small scale businesses all over the city Monday.
The movement is believed to be part of a drive by Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, to “clean up” Moscow's image, according to the BBC.
Because the demolition started at night, business owners were given very little time to save their equipment. The unjust operation has sparked outrage among local residents. Social media reactions are also mostly negative.
Around 100 shops have been destroyed overnight across #Moscow. Business gone, employees jobless. New building permits will cost money— Birgit Schmeitzner (@BSchmeitzner) February 9, 2016
Hundreds of citizens in Moscow took to Twitter and Instagram using hashtags #Moscow #demolition and #apocalypse. A Russian photographer by the name of tatiana.rodionova on Instagram posted pictures of the rubble, where once the businesses thrived.
A video published on Facebook shows shop owners pleading with the police to stop the demolition of their businesses that they worked so hard to acquire and run.
The destroyed stores and small businesses offered convenience foods, services including hairdressing, photo booths, and payment for mobile phones, food and local taxes. The shops demolished included not just small kiosks but also three-story shopping centers.
Authorities argue the destroyed shops were "illegal" and hindered pedestrian access to underground services such as gas and telecommunications, but this has done nothing to subdue the angry masses. Frustrated owners are filing petitions against the mayor arguing the process itself was illegal since there was no court ruling on these demolitions.
Some reports say as many as 15,000 people could be out of a job because of the disappearance of the kiosks. Russia's economy is in the middle of a recession, so this move was rather an unwise decision on the part of Moscow’s officials. It was also inhumane to target small local business owners without prior notice.
Opposition politician Alexei Navalny writes in his blog that opening these businesses couldn’t have been possible without papers permits and bribes. The question is, why aren’t these corrupt officials subject to punishment?
Last year, after removing hundreds of such of kiosks, a handful of small vending machines were installed in the name of beautifying Moscow and this year, it’s still not clear what will happen to the lands vacated in the demolition.
Since being appointed in 2011, Sobyanin has repeatedly destroyed some 22,000 kiosks, saying they are “beautifying” and “cleaning up” Moscow’s image, according to The Moscow Times.
More than half of these small businesses were totally destroyed on Tuesday and the rest are scheduled to be torn down before Feb. 24.