Dozens of mortgage holders detained during protest in central Moscow

Dozens are detained, as Russians who can’t pay their dollar-denominated mortgages following the collapse of the rouble gather for an unsanctioned protest near Red Square in Moscow.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (MARCH 22, 2015) (REUTERS) – Police detained dozens of protesters in Moscow’s Red Square on Sunday (March 22), as they tried to bring attention to the plight of Russians trapped in dollar-dominated mortgages amid the fall of the country’s ruble currency.

Members of the Russian Foreign Currency Borrowers’ Community appeared in the crowds of tourists on the square, wearing black T-Shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Slave of foreign currency mortgage”.

The rouble plunged dramatically in 2014, in reaction to the decline in oil prices and economic sanctions that hit the Russian economy – almost doubling mortgage debts.

Tatiana Samoilova, a WWII veteran who came Red Square in her wheelchair to support the activists, said she could only rely on the authorities but had almost no hope.

“So they will throw us away (on the street) and where will we live, in a tent? There is no (other) place to live, there are no relatives, there is no way out,” she said.

Organisers of the protest said they only planed a “stroll” by the Kremlin walls, but soon after they appeared, police buses arrived, and officers escorted activists away.

Organisers said at least 50 people were detained without explanation.

Members of the borrowers’ community sought consolation in one of the Moscow churches, praying for a way out of their financial trouble.

“The bank is literally going to start the legal proceedings and will take away our home. Where we will live, I do not know. Most likely problems with social services will arise, as the children will have nowhere to live. It will either be some social housing, or we will be thrown out on the street and, our children will be taken away. There are the saddest options, we have no hope for anything. We can only come to the church to ask for some (help). There are no options, no light,” said Oleg, who came to the church service with his two children.

Oleg told Reuters his elderly parents would give him money from their pensions to pay off the debts, but soon it would be hard for him to make ends meet.

“We are ready to continue paying properly as we did, but we want to pay by a fair rate, because in this situation we will not be physically able to pay this kind of money. And I do not know who will benefit – maybe the banks – if my children end up living on the street,” said Dmitry, who also came to pray with his wife and two daughters.

According to the Russian news site RBK, the Russian Central Bank announced on March 19, that 4.5 billion roubles wold be provided to those who have to pay off mortgages in foreign currency. However only around 2,000 people would be eligible to government help, according to an RBK source in an article.

The state Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending is quoted by the website as saying there are currently 3 million mortgage holders in Russia, including 20,000 with dollar-dominated mortgages.