Greenpeace Russia: Help Defend the Khimki Forest!

Editor’s Note. Online petitions are surely weapons of the weak, but the defenders of the Khimki Forest, which is currently being illegally razed to make way for an 8-billion-dollar toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg, need all the help they can get right now. (We have posted on the story here, here, and here.) Below, you’ll find a petition drafted by Greenpeace Russia and addressed to Xavier Huillard, chairman and chief executive officer of VINCI, the French company contracted to build the highway. If you go to the link provided, you’ll find the preface to the petition (in Russian) and their suggested appeal to Mr. Huillard (in French). To sign onto the appeal as is, you merely need to type in your name (Имя) and e-mail address, and hit the send (Отправить) button. Or you can write your own letter by changing the text in the subject heading (Тема) and the message (Сообщение) field. Below, we have provided translations of the original Russian and French texts.

For more suggestions on how to help, see the EarthAction website.

It would probably also not hurt to contact VINCI directly.

________

http://www.greenpeace.org/russia/ru/lesnadzor

HELP DEFEND THE KHIMKI FOREST: Sign a petition addressed to the construction company VINCI!

This major French company has been contracted to build a road through the Khimki Forest.

In April of this year, at a meeting between the presidents of Russia and France, French businessmen implored Dmitry Medvedev to take care of the situation with the Khimki Forest. As the president said then, “It’s a pity about the oaks, of course,” but then he ordered his aides to take care of this “oaky” [i.e., in Russian, “stupid” or “stubborn”] problem.

And boy have they have taken care of it! The forest is now being illegally cut down. The forest’s defenders are attacked by hired thugs and illegally detained by regular police and OMON riot cops; they are threatened with physical reprisals. But back home in France, Yves-Thibault de Silguy, Vice-Chairman and Senior Director of VINCI, is a knight of the French Legion of Honor. Does such an esteemed gentleman really want to be an accomplice to the destruction of nature and the nonobservance of civil rights in another country?

The Khimki Forest is one of the last large tracts of forest around Moscow, which is suffocating from automobile exhaust, fires, and soot as it is. Out of three possible routes for the Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll road, planners have chosen the route that will destroy the forest by splitting it in two. First the road will be built, but later it is quite possible that the remainder of the forest will be cleared to make way for villas, shopping malls, etc. Moreover, the alternate routes for the highway would not have such a serious impact on the Khimki Forest. According to developers, they are simply quite expensive, although according to their own documents, the alternate route that would cause the least damage to the forest is also the most economical. It is just that at this other site there are plans to build a golf club and a Formula-1 racetrack, and in Russia it is much cheaper to destroy a forest than to fight with those forces who allot land for golf clubs.

SEND AN APPEAL TO VINCI’S CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD [XAVIER HUILLARD]

We demand that VINCI retract its request to “take care” of the forest’s defenders, not participate in the construction of a road whose route runs through the Khimki Forest, and re-examine alternate routes for the highway.

[Suggested text of the appeal to M. Huillard]

A l’attention de Monsieur Xavier Huillard – Vinci tue la forêt de Russie

Monsieur Xavier Huillard,

Suite à la situation actuelle concernant le projet de la construction de l’autoroute à péage Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg nous sommes obligés de vous adresser ce courrier, la participation de votre société étant importante, dans le projet accrédité par le  Ministère de l’Économie, de l’Industrie et de l’Emploi du Gouvernement de la Fédération de Russie.

Malgré la disponibilité de nombreuses alternatives, la route doit traverser une partie de la forêt à proximité de la ville Khimki dans la banlieue moscovite. L’alternative choisie n’a pas de fondements logiques, car elle suppose la coupe de plus de 140 hectares de forêt de la banlieue moscovite – source d’oxygène pour la mégapole de Moscou.

Les organisations de défense de l’environnement, notamment, Greenpeace de Russie, sont opposées au passage de la route à travers la forêt et proposent de retourner aux autres alternatives proposées. Les écologistes font face à la résistance à la fois des pouvoirs publics russes, ainsi que des personnes inconnues, présentent sur le lieu de la coupe forestière.

Actuellement des citoyens-militants – des habitants de la ville de Khimki, tentant à s’opposer à la coupe de la forêt de Khimki, entendent des menaces physiques du côté des personnes inconnues, présentent sur le lieu de la coupe forestière et soutenues par la milice et par OMON (brigade anti-terrorisme et anti-émeute). Le 19 juillet des personnes inconnues ont dispersé  le campement de tentes des défenseurs de la forêt de Khimki. Jusqu’à présent des hommes patrouillent sur le territoire de la coupe forestière, en menaçant physiquement chaque personne à proximité.

Il faut rappeler qu’un des militants du mouvement « Défense de la forêt de Khimki » – le rédacteur en chef du journal local « Khmkinskaya pravda » Mikhaïl Beketov a déjà souffert été blessé. En 2008 il a été soumis à une agression brutale. Au cours des deux dernières années il a subi plusieurs opérations importantes et il est toujours alité. La voiture du journaliste a explosé avant les événements tragiques de 2008 et l’affaire a été classée.

Ces derniers jours la situation autours de la forêt de Khimki s’est aggravée davantage encore. Les hommes, montant la garde autour de la coupe forestière illégale, ont provoqué une bagarre et ont tabassé les militants écologistes en présence d’un député de la Douma, arrivé sur le lieu des événements. Seule l’intervention personnelle du député, qui a littéralement forcé la milice à prendre des mesures, a pu empêcher les graves conséquences des actes commis par ces personnes inconnues.

Il faut aussi noter, que le Centre TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL a publié sur son site une conclusion de l’expertise anticorruption : il s’agit de l’Arrêté du Gouvernement de la Fédération de Russie, adopté dans le cadre de la réalisation du projet de construction de l’autoroute fédérale Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg. Il est précisé dans ce document (voir Avenant 1), que le projet  comprend explicitement une composante corruption, étant donné que le ministre russe du Transport de la Fédération de Russie et des autres fonctionnaires administratifs y sont intéressés personnellement.

L’histoire de la coupe illégale de la forêt de Khimki est déjà livrée à une large publicité dans la presse mondiale, notamment dans Reuters, BBC, etc.  A cet égard nous sommes sûrs que la participation française à ce projet, injustifié du point de vue écologique avec l’alternative  du passage de l’autoroute à travers la forêt de Khimki, cause un dommage irréparable aux relations franco-russes et à l’image de la société participant au projet.

Nous espérons, que votre société a envie de n’avoir rien en commun avec ce projet, réalisé dans l’atteinte aux droits des citoyens de Russie et à l’environnement et dont le site de réalisation est surveillé par des hommes armés et masqués.

Nous exigeons une déclaration officielle immédiate de la part de la société VINCI, précisant qu’elle :

1) n’a rien en commun avec le projet, causant un dommage irréparable à la nature

2) exige d’examiner des alternatives au tracé de l’autoroute Moscou-Saint-Petersbourg qui ne seront pas liées à la destruction de la forêt de Khimki.

3) exige d’arrêter tous les poursuites et les agressions contre les défenseurs de la forêt de Khimki.

_____

Attn: Mr. Xavier Huillard

Re: VINCI Is Killing the Russian Forest

Given the current situation regarding the proposed construction of a toll road from Moscow to St. Petersburg, we are obliged send you this letter because the involvement of your company in this project (which has been approved by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Ministry of Labor and Social Development of the Government of the Russian Federation) is crucial.

Despite the availability of numerous alternatives, the road will cross through a tract of forest near the town of Khimki in the Moscow suburbs. The route chosen has no basis in logic, because it involves the felling of more than 140 hectares of forest in the Moscow suburbs — a source of oxygen for the megalopolis of Moscow.

Environmental organizations, in particular, Greenpeace Russia, are opposed to the passage of the road through the forest and call on planners to re-examine the proposed alternatives. Environmentalists face pressure from both the Russian authorities and persons unknown who are present at the logging site.

Right now the grassroots activists and Khimki residents who are trying to oppose the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest are threatened with physical violence by persons unknown at the logging site who are supported by the police and OMON riot/anti-terrorist police. On July 19, persons unknown broke up the tent camp of Khimki Forest defenders. Men are still patrolling the logging site, physically threatening everyone in the vicinity.

It should be remembered that one of the activists of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest — Mikhail Beketov, editor of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda — has already suffered injuries. In 2008 he was subjected to a brutal assault. Over the past two years he has undergone several major operations and is still bedridden. The journalist’s car was bombed before the tragic events of 2008 and the case was closed.

These days the situation surrounding the forest Khimki has worsened further. The men who guard the illegal logging site provoked a fight and beat up environmental activists in the presence of a State Duma deputy who had arrived at the scene. Only the personal intervention of the deputy, who literally forced the police to take action, prevented these acts committed by persons unknown from having serious consequences.

Also note that Transparency International-R has published on its website its findings in an anti-corruption study dealing with the Russian Federation government decree adopted as part of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg federal highway construction project. It is stated in that document (see Addendum 1) that the project includes an explicit component of corruption, given that the Russian Federation Minister of Transportation and other government officials have a personal stake in the project.

The story of the illegal felling of the Khimki Forest has already garnered broad coverage from the international press, including Reuters, the BBC, etc. In this regard, we are confident that French involvement in this project, which is unjustifiable from the environmental point of view because it routes the highway through the Khimki Forest, will cause irreparable damage to Franco-Russian relations and the image of the company involved in the project.

We hope that your company wants to have nothing to do with this project, whose implementation involves the infringement of the rights of Russian citizens and the environment, and whose site is guarded by armed and masked men.

We demand an immediate official statement from VINCI stating that:

1) it wants nothing to do with a project that causes irreparable damage to nature;

2) it demands the consideration of alternatives to the proposed highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg that do not involve the destruction of the Khimki Forest;

3) it demands an end to all persecution of and attacks against Khimki Forest defenders.

1 Comment

Filed under activism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, Russian society

One response to “Greenpeace Russia: Help Defend the Khimki Forest!

  1. Pingback: Social Forum Journey » Why we need solidarity with Russian environmentalists and antifascists

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