Russia: Mass demolition of homes in one of the biggest Romani settlements
The situation in the municipality of Plechanovo, one of the biggest Romani settlements in Russia, where mass street fighting occurred several weeks ago between local residents and police over efforts by the gas utility to cut Romani residents off from the gas lines, has deteriorated further. Starting in the first week of June, the illegal constructions in which local Romani people are living have been demolished.
A court ordered the demolition of more than 120 homes. A representative of the local administration, Yevgeni Avilov, claims the situation in the municipality is relatively calm.
News server Romea.cz reported on the conflicts in Plechanovo at the end of May. Romani people interviewed at that time said they feared pogroms and being transported to the steppes.
Local Romani residents were supposed to participate in the planned demolition of 121 homes at the end of May and beginning of June, but only two small dwellings were voluntarily dismantled by their Romani owners. Czech Radio reported on 9 June that "Several hundred Romani families got 30 minutes to move from their small dwellings into a residential hotel."
"We don't have anywhere else to go..."
In mid-March unrest broke out in the municipality after employees of the gas utility attempted to cut local Rominai residents off from the gas mains to which they were illegally connected. A 500-strong special unit of riot police was then sent to the scene, driving the locals back into their homes and facilitating the utility's disconnection work.
In mid-May representatives of the local Roma in Plechanovo were supposed to show up in court in the town of Tula to officially request legal connections to the gas main. As a gesture of protest against the pressure from the authorities forcing them to demolish their illegally constructed homes and move elsewhere, none of the representatives made such a request.
"Where are we supposed to go? We don't have anywhere else to go! This is a pogrom!" local Romani residents complained to the Russian press at the time.
News server Romea.cz previously reported that tension and uncertainty predominated in the settlement, which is one of Russia's biggest Romani communities. Approximately 10 000 residents total live in Plechanovo.
Almost one-third of local residents are Romani. Their neighborhood is segregated from that of the white majority population by Mayakovsky Street, with non-Romani residents on one side of that thoroughfare on Romani residents on the other.
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