September 17—20, 2010
On July 28, 2010, more than two hundred young antifascists and anarchists carried out a spontaneous demonstration outside the town administration building in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. They demonstrated in defense of the Khimki Forest, which was at that time in the process of beings cutting down for the needs of big business. The demonstration, during which several windows were broken, received a great deal of public attention. The authorities responded with a wave of repressions. The day after the demonstration, two well-known social activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, were arrested. They are now threatened with up to seven years in prison for disorderly conduct, although there is no evidence of their complicity in illegal activities. Meanwhile, the police continue to hunt down and harass other activists, especially those involved in the antifascist movement.
The campaign to save the Khimki Forest has been going on for the past three years. The authorities had decided to build a segment of a planned Moscow—Saint Petersburg toll highway, the first of its kind in Russia, through the forest. This would lead to the deterioration of environmental conditions in the region, and local residents and Muscovites would be deprived of yet another recreation zone. Despite the availability of alternative routes that would not require clear-cutting the forest and vigorous protests by environmentalists and ordinary citizens against the planned route, the authorities f0r a long time ignored the voice of society and on several occasions took measures to suppress their critics.
Khimki authorities and the highway project contractor have used violence and other tactics against Khimki Forest defenders. They refused to give permission for protest demonstrations, recruited nationalist thugs to break up a peaceful protest camp organized by environmentalists and local residents, and illegally arrested and beat up journalists covering the story. Nearly two years ago, Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda and a critic of the local administration, was severely beaten by persons unknown; the attack left Beketov permanently disabled. Sergei Protozanov, the layout designer of another local opposition paper, was murdered in similar circumstances six months later.
After the July 28 demonstration, the Russian police and secret services unleashed an unprecedented dragnet against antifascists. People who had even just once come to the attention of the Center for Extremism Prevention and FSB for their involvement with the antifascist movement have been forcibly taken in for questioning. In several cases they have been subjected to harsh physical coercion in order to compel them to give the testimony required by investigators. In addition, illegal searches have been carried out in their apartments. All these actions on the part of law enforcement authorities are violations of Russian and international law.
Frightened by the numerous and growing protests against the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest, the authorities have finally made concessions by agreeing to review the advisability of the planned route for the toll highway. But this does not mean victory. Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov are still in police custody for no reason at all. They are hostages of the authorities.
In late September, the next hearing in their case will take place. The judge will decide whether to keep them in police custody pending completion of the investigation and trial. Everyone who cares about the fate of these two young men must do everything in their power to see that they are set free. The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages calls on people around the world to organize days of action on September 17, 18, 19, and 20 to pressure the Russian authorities to release Alexei and Maxim.
We ask you to hold protests outside of Russian Federation embassies, consulates, trade missions, and cultural centers, as well as at public events and concerts connected to Russia. We also ask you to send faxes, e-mails, and protest letters to the court, the prosecutor’s office, and the country’s political leadership. In the very near future we will inform you of addresses where you can send these protests as well as more details about the ongoing repressions in Russia. Look for this information on our website http://khimkibattle.org in English, German, Russian, and French.
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Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages
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