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25 Jul, 2008 02:20

Building frenzy puts Old Moscow at risk

Important old buildings in central Moscow are being swallowed up in the capital's construction boom. And some monuments located almost at the Kremlin's doorstep are on the verge of becoming history themselves.

The 17th-century Zaikonospassky monastery and the oldest Russian Greco-Roman academy are among them. Both are at risk of sinking into a 20-metre ditch that was secretly and illegally dug out beneath buildings. The monastery is leaning at an angle of five degrees and resembles Italy’s Tower of Pisa. Numerous cracks have appeared on the buildings. Within the last week part of the yard simply sank.

At the centre of the controversy is a company that won the right to renovate a nearby underground passage in 1999. The passage had shops but the investor went beyond his remit.  He tried to extend the space to the size of a football pitch in order to build a shopping arcade.

The Greco-Roman academy was almost destroyed by the construction. City authorities claim they have been trying to stop the work for a long time without success.

The head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Committee said a recent investigation revealed the building company was ordered to stop work but secretly continued during the night. Only this week, with the help of the police, was the investor was forced to stop.