Background information in the English-language press about the campaign to save the Khimki Forest:
- Yevgenia Chirikova: The Battle for the Khimki Forest
- Khimki Forest Defender Yevgenia Chirikova Is New Face Of Russian Civic Activism
- Erik Hoffner: Moscow Forest Battle Boils Over
- The Moscow Times: Engineering a Forest’s Defense
Eco-Defense website (in Russian)
In the following video, Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, explains (in Russian) how the planned toll highway could easily be rerouted to bypass the Khimki Forest and how she was recently attacked by a man driving a car with Petersburg license plates.
Khimki, Territory of Lawlessness: Khimki Forest Defenders Arbitrarily Detained at Bus Stop
It seems that in Khimki law enforcement officials have decided to ignore even the appearance of abiding by the law.
Today, August 2, at 12 noon, defenders of the Khimki Forest – approximately 50 peaceful citizens – arrived by bus at the Starbeyevo stop, where they were planning to monitor whether illegal clear-cutting was going on in this area. They had not even managed to assemble when police began detaining them. The first to be arrested were Yabloko party leader Sergei Mitrokhin and Left Front and Mossoviet leader Sergei Udaltsov (whom policemen seized with cries of “Let’s get Udaltsov!”).
IKD received this information from Ilya Budraitskis (Vpered Socialist Movement). As he was talking to us by telephone, he was also detained. He is now being taken to an unknown destination along with three other activists. Police have given them no explanations for their arrests.
Around nine or ten people total have been detained – for no reason whatsoever. These people were at the bus stop, far from the alleged site of the logging. Police have blocked the road into the forest. The Khimki Forest has become a territory where lawlessness reigns.
We remind readers that after an official request by Russian State Duma deputy Anton Belyakov, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered that logging be halted and is conducting a review of the case. However, Teplotekhnik, Inc., the subcontractor, continues its destruction of the forest to make way for a Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll highway, although it does not have all the necessary permits for this work. As the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest informs us, this firm, subcontracted by the federal corporation Roads of Russia, is headed by Alexander Semchenko, a bishop of the Baptist church and a former adviser to Putin on cooperation with religious organizations.
Moreover, the Russian federal government decree on the clearing of the Khimki Forest, dated 5 November 2009, was not ratified with the Moscow city government, which was obligatory insofar as the forest is part of the capital city’s green belt. Alexander Muzykantsky, Moscow human rights ombudsman, has filed an appeal in this connection with the prosector’s office, which is reviewing the matter.
The logging of the forest continues all the same, and soon it will reach the homes of Khimki residents. Activists have brought a temporary halt to the razing several times insofar as Teplotekhnik does not have all the necessary permits. At present, the Prosector General’s office is reviewing the legality of its actions. But Teplotekhnik continues to fell the Khimki Forest because they want the money.
Call the Khimki police stations where activists are being held and ask why they have been arrested and when they will be released:
- Khimki Department of Internal Affairs: +7 (495) 573-0202
- Khimki Police Precinct No. 2: +7 (495) 573-3747
STOP POLICE REPRISALS AGAINST ANTIFASCISTS IN RUSSIA!
On July 30, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov, two antifascist activists, were arrested in Moscow without formal charges of any kind. Maxim and Alexei are well-known public spokesmen of the growing movement of young people against neo-Nazi violence, and in recent years they have done much to expose the connections amongst government agencies, the police, and ultra-rightists in Russia.
Their arrests came on the heels of a series of dramatic events that unfolded in July around protests against the destruction of a forest in Khimki, outside of Moscow. Because they have a stake in clear-cutting the forest to make way for a multibillion-dollar toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg, big business and state bureaucrats have unleashed a full-scale campaign of violence against the local residents and environmentalists who make up the protest group. On July 23, their peaceful camp in the forest was brutally attacked by private security guards and a gang of ultra-rightist football hooligans hired by the construction company, while the police stood by, demonstratively refusing to intervene. The attacks against protesters continued during the week of July 26, along with the clear-cutting of the Khimki Forest, one of the largest green belts near Moscow.
On July 28, a group of radical antifascists estimated to number around 400 staged a symbolic action against corporate, police and neo-Nazi lawlessness by throwing smoke bombs at the building of the Khimki municipal administration, which bears direct responsibility for the situation that has developed around the forest.
The action was carried out in a matter of minutes, and so police were unable to respond in time and arrest any of the attackers. Despite the fact that they had no information about the identities of the people who participated in the action, the following day the police detained and searched the flats of people whose only crime is that they publicly express their antifascist and anti-capitalist stance. In addition, two journalists who photographed and videotaped the action on July 28 were also detained.
According to press reports, “solving” the case of the attack on the Khimki administration building has been made a priority at the very top, by the Russian Presidential Administration, which will now attempt to find the guilty parties whatever the cost. Knowing the tactics of the Russian police and secret services, we have no doubt that psychological and physical methods of coercion, including torture, might well be used in the current investigation, especially because investigators presently do not have a single piece of evidence that would link Alexei and Maxim to the attack.
It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the antifascist movement in Moscow depends on the outcome of this case. Police officials have already told the press that “it’s time to put them in their place” and smash this growing movement, which is not controlled by the authorities.
We call on all leftist and worker activists, antifascists and environmentalists to protest the police reprisals against Alexei and Maxim.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
1. Send protest letters or make calls to the following addresses and phone numbers:Moscow Region Prosecutor’s Office Malyi Kiselnyi per., d. 5 107031 Moscow Russian Federation firstname.lastname@example.org • Khimki Prosecutor’s Office ul. Mayakovskogo, d. 30 141400 Khimki, Moscow Region Russian Federation +7 (495) 571-6235 • Khimki Department of Internal Affairs (current location of detainees) ul. Gogolia, d. 6 141400 Khimki, Moscow Region Russian Federation +7 (495) 572-0202 (Duty Officer) +7 (495) 572-1209 (Administrative Office) •
2. Submit protest letters to the Russian Federation embassy or consulate in your area or, better yet, organize protest actions outside embassies demanding the immediate release of Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov.
3. Send an online letter to the Russian president.
4. Distribute this information as widely as possible.
Campaign Facebook Page: Freedom for Russian antifascists Alexei Gaskarov & Maxim Solopov!
[Editor’s Note: We have adapted the following blog post to make it more readable.]
Moscow / Khimki: The Battle with the Adminstration Heats Up
In recent days, the battle to stop the destruction of the forest in the Moscow suburb of Khimki has heated up. Activists have been protesting the building of an $8 million high-speed toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg. This highway would destroy beautiful forestland around Moscow. Environmentalists say the highway can be built to bypass the old oak forest.
The flashpoint has been in the city of Khimki, right outside Moscow. There is a history of violence sponsored by the local authorities in this town. In the most famous case of political terrorism, in November 2008, Mikhail Beketov, outspoken editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda (Khimki Truth), was savagely beaten in front of his home. The attack was clearly related to his criticism of local authorities and the planned highway. As a result of his injuries, one of his legs was amputated, and head traumas he suffered during the attack have left him unable to speak. Current reports on his condition indicate that his other leg may have to be amputated.
Khimki authorities thus have a reputation for dealing brutally with anybody who dares oppose them.
Direct actions started on July 14, when the logging was to begin. Eco-activists set up a camp in Khimki to take direct action against the deforestation. They have employed blockades on the train lines leading to the logging site.
On July 23, at about 5 a.m., the protestors and two journalists were attacked and beaten by a gang of several dozen thugs with white T-shirts masking their faces. From all indications, this was an organized group of neo-fascists, judging by the symbols on their shirts. The police arrived and began arresting the activists, not the attackers, which indicates that this was an attack carried out in coordination with the police. Security guards hired by the firm carrying out the destruction of the forest also took part.
15 people were arrested at that time. Later in the day, the police arrived again, taking away dozens of people.
When some activists tried to protest in front of the White House in Moscow against construction of the highway and the illegal destruction of the forest, they were also immediately arrested.
On July 28, a large group of people (most reports put the numbers between 400 and 500) marched on Khimki. Some of them (70-100 people) attacked the local administration building. This is shown in the videos below.
Our Friends Have Been Illegally Arrested
On the morning of July 29, antifascist Alexei Gaskarov was summoned to the local police station for a conversation. There he was handed over to Extremism Department officers and taken away to an unknown destination. Most of the provisions in the law that stipulates operating procedures for the police were violated. None of his relatives was informed, and no notice was served to state the reasons for the arrest. That same evening, antifascist Maxim Solopov was called in for a conversation near the Okhotny Ryad metro station after he appeared on a Russian News Service radio broadcast. Maxim went to the meeting spot but no conversation took place. He was put into a car and taken to Khimki. During the night, the flats of Gaskarov and Solopov were searched. Alexei Gaskarov’s flat was searched without a warrant or other required papers being served, without the confiscated items being inventoried and without a neutral witness present to certify the search [as required by Russian law].
We clearly understand why it was Alexei and Maxim who were arrested. They are well known in public and take the risk and responsibility of being publicly open. They have never concealed their identities, speaking on the record in the press and on the radio. They were arrested because they are the only antifascists well known to the police. The police are now under pressure from the presidential administration to solve the case: that is why someone had to be arrested.
As Alexei’s and Maxim’s faces are known to the police and mass media, it would have been quite stupid of them to take part in violent actions.
We clearly understand that to ask for their release is to cry for the moon no matter how hard we long for it. We appeal for the observance of law, although this institution in our country is violated by the guardians of the law themselves. We demand that the legal proceedings against our friends not be turned into a show trial. We demand that the mass media be allowed access to the proceedings. We demand that the authorities abide by their own laws.
We know that we have the truth on our side and that we will win the day.
On July 31, the first closed court proceedings on the case took place in Khimki. Nobody was allowed into the courtroom. The building was surrounded by groups of riot police officers and water cannon trucks, and a number of ambulances and police cars were parked in the vicinity. Because Alexei and Maxim had already been in custody for 48 hours, formal charges should have been brought against them, but they still have not been formally charged with any crimes, and the court hearing was postponed until Tuesday, August 3, with the judge qualifying the case as a “tough” one.
It has also come to light that their arrest reports state that Alexei and Maxim were detained at the crime scene, which contradicts the police’s original statement that no one was arrested after the incident outside the Khimki administration building. This suggests that the cases against them are being fabricated.
We are disturbed by how the case is proceeding and would appreciate any international support.
Funds are being raised to pay for Alexei and Maxim’s legal defense, and your help would be critical here. Please go to the links below to transfer money:
R113104516303 — rubles
Z170280498291 — USD
E318901103117 — Euro
A regular bank account will be opened as soon as possible. More information to follow.