The City Duma has adopted a draft law that dramatically increases the legal responsibility of those who damage the capital’s architectural pearls.
First of all, the new law significantly raises fines for inappropriate use, vandalizing and destruction of monuments and historical buildings. Currently, this crime may cost the offender $50-$80 (for individuals) and $1,000-$2,500 (for organizations).
“In many cases, such violations – especially when they are serious enough – are simply pinned on some individual,” said the head of Moscow Cultural Heritage department, Aleksandr Kibirovsky. “And the offenders make away with a laughable $80 fine.”
There is also a wide gap between fines for damaging monuments of federal and regional importance: for example, for vandalizing a UNESCO-protected cathedral, the offender may pay a thousand times less than for destroying some local Moscow monument.
According to the new law, the fines could amount to as much as $100-$200 for individuals, $1,000-$2,000 for officials, and $20,000-$30,000 for organizations. The latter will also face a 90-day suspension on all their activities. Any unsanctioned digging, construction or archeological works might cost the offenders up to $30,000.
The deputies are also considering the option to give such offenders a five-year prison sentence.
“Crimes against cultural heritage should be treated as grave,” said the head of the State Duma’s commission for lawmaking, Aleksandr Semennikov.
Most importantly, the new law could concern not only the registered monuments already subject to state monitoring, but also newly designated ones.
“The existing law doesn’t protect unregistered monuments – though they must be protected,” said Kibirovsky. “All the major high-profile architectural scandals were connected with such newly designated monuments. The organizations that damaged them used to avoid responsibly just on the grounds that these monuments are not yet recognized.”
The procedure of official registration takes about a year, so the organizations usually hurry up with construction and manage to finish all the work – and destroy the monument – before any legal responsibility is due.
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