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14.07.2014 | Halya Coynash

Crimean authorities get green light for forceful purchase of private property

   

The Crimean parliament under Russian occupation has adopted a bill entitled ‘On the specific features of buying up strategic sites in the Republic of the Crimea”. This permits the regional authorities to forcibly purchase private property owned by individuals or legal entities.  Experts believe that the wording of the document makes it possible for not only land or real estate to be covered, but any company.

RBC.ru reports that according to the law, sites / buildings “where circumstances have arisen threatening life, the public health, the state’s economic security; the normal functioning of vital buildings; manmade and environmental catastrophe” can be forcibly bought from the owner. The site or building only needs to be in a list drawn up by the peninsula’s council of ministers. Its owner must be informed about the beginning of the purchase procedure within 5 days; s/he is entitled to compensation as stipulated by the Crimean authorities on the basis of an assessment carried out by an independent valuer. The procedure for appealing against this assessment is not set out in the law.

There is also no definition of ‘strategic sites’.  According to senior lawyer from the law firm Sameta, Konstantin Gurichev says that Russian legislation does not contain any provisions regarding purchase of strategic sites.

He explains that the Civil and Land Codes contain norms about purchase of land sites for state and municipal needs.  An exhaustive list is provided, and the owner’s consent is needed.  If this is not given, the authorities can seek compulsory purchase via the courts.

There are, however, other laws accelerating the procedure which were adopted for preparations to the Olympic Games in Sochi.

The lack of clarity with the new law makes it possible for the authorities to use it for the compulsory purchase not only of land, but of companies.  Sergei Aksenov, who was installed in power when Russian invaded the Crimea on Feb 27, has already said that specific enterprises may face compulsory purchase.

It sounds as though the Crimea’s puppet government has leapt in before plans announced by Russia.  As reported, the plans announced back on June 10 for making the Crimea a ‘special economic zone’ were seen as likely to lead to mass evictions.  A fast-track compensation procedure was proposed which would inform people within seven days that a decision had been taken to forcibly remove their land.  The owner would then have three months to agree to the compensation, otherwise the land would be removed through the court.  The person then would have only 10 days to appeal. This time frame is totally unrealistic since valuation, assessment of damage, etc. would take a lot longer.

Owners are in any case likely to lose out if Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans go ahead for the peninsula, as owners in Sochi did prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

One of the reasons behind the special economic zone is to entice super-rich people to the Crimea with all kinds of tax and other incentives, as well as preferential access to infrastructure.  In order for that infrastructure to be built, ordinary Crimeans would end up without their homes.  The compensation would be paid according to what somebody deemed the property to be worth before the infrastructure was developed, but they would most likely be buying at new astronomically higher prices.

It is now looking as though the main question is whether the puppet regime and its friends are going to leap in now, or whether Putin’s plan for an enticing playground for the super-elite can come off.  The only thing not in question would seem to be that ordinary Crimeans are likely to be seriously worse off.

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