Tag Archives: Khimki Forest

Russian Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov Arrested

avtonom.org

Well-Known Russian Anti-Fascist Alexei Gaskarov Arrested

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On Sunday, April 28, 2013, the well-known Russian anti-fascist Alexei Gaskarov was arrested in Moscow. He is an elected member of the Russian opposition’s Coordinating Council. The Russian Investigative Committee has accused him of involvement in riots and violence against officials on May 6, 2012, when OMON (Russian riot police) attacked a peaceful, authorized demonstration in Moscow.

May 6 was the day before Putin’s inauguration, and a mass demonstration had been called by the opposition. The winter and spring of 2011-2012 saw the biggest wave of political demonstrations in Russia in almost twenty years, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest election fraud. May 6 was also the first time authorities had moved to crush these protests. According to the opposition, more than 600 people were arrested that day, and 28 people have subsequently been charged in connection with these events, remanded to police custody, placed under house arrest or forced to emigrate.

On May 6, 2012, OMON officers beat Alexei Gaskarov with batons and boots. He filed a complaint against the officers who beat him up, but no one was charged. Now, a year later, and just a few days before the anniversary of the May 6 demonstration, as Gaskarov was preparing to lead a left-wing and anti-fascist column at May Day demonstrations, he has had a set of absurd charges brought against him and been arrested.

Alexei Gaskarov was born on June 18, 1985, and has been politically active since his school days.

Gaskarov gained fame in summer 2010, when, during the protest campaign against the destruction of the Khimki Forest, he was  arrested along with Maxim Solopov and accused of orchestrating an attack by 300 to 400 young anti-fascists, who supported the environmentalists, on the Khimki city administration building. In autumn 2010,  Gaskarov and Solopov were released from prison, thanks to a massive international campaign on behalf of the “Khimki Hostages.” In summer 2011, Gaskarov was acquitted of all charges.

Gaskarov has been actively involved in the mass demonstrations against electoral fraud in Russia since they began in December 2011. He was one of the speakers at the largest of the demonstrations, on December 24, 2011, on Sakharov Boulevard in Moscow. He was in charge of the security for that rally, where he had to stop neo-Nazi provocations.

Gaskarov is being held in the police jail at Petrovka, 38, awaiting a court hearing, scheduled for 11 am, April 29, 2013 at the Basmanny district courthouse in Moscow. Pending the court’s decision, Gaskarov will be remanded or released.

Additional information:
gaskarov.info@gmail.com
https://twitter.com/gaskarov_info
Svetlana Sidorkina (Gaskarov’s lawyer): +7 (926) 557-9016

Editor’s Note. We have slightly edited the original article to make it more readable.

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August 1, 2012

MOSCOW, August 1 – RAPSI. Opposition activist Alexei Gaskarov has filed an application with the investigative authorities, claiming that he was beaten up by riot police officers during the March of Millions, the Agora human rights organization told the Russian Legal Information Agency on Wednesday.

Gaskarov has also provided a video of the beating to the investigators.

Agora reported that Gaskarov went to the Interior Ministry’s Internal Security Department to speak with investigators about the Bolotnaya Square riots. During the questioning, he gave the investigators a four minute video demonstrating how he was beaten by police officers.

According to Gaskarov, the investigators said they would look into his statement within a month.

Gaskarov sent a statement about his beating to Moscow Investigative Department head Vadim Yakovenko.

Clashes with the police flared up on May 6 during an opposition march across Moscow, which had been granted official permission. Tens of protesters and police officers were injured. The police detained over 400 rally participants.

After May 6, the opposition continued its protests in the form of “people’s promenades.”

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The Disenchantment of Tsagovsky Forest

Now that the dust has cleared after the recent so-called elections in Russia, it seems as if the western media — so breathless and eager to report every move made by the “creative class” or the “emergent middle class” (or whoever all those hundreds of thousands of people were on the streets of Moscow, Petersburg and other Russian cities) as it confronted the powers that be with white ribbons and cries of “We don’t want a revolution!” — has either gone on a well-deserved holiday or has (more likely) gone back to its usual fruitless wanderings in the hallowed halls of Kremlinology, thus missing the stories of conflict and popular resistance that, frankly, also existed in abundance (if not in sheer numbers all in one place) before that exciting “middle class revolt” of December 2011 unfolded.

Here’s a suggestion for those intrepid lovers of evenings at Moscow’s famous Jean Jacques cafe: run, don’t walk, to the Tsagovsky Forest, in the town of Zhukovsky, forty kilometers southeast of Moscow. This is what things looked like there yesterday afternoon (April 21):

As Voice of America’s Russian Service reported yesterday,

On Saturday, April 21, the defenders of the Tsagovsky Forest — the so-called Civilian Monitoring Camp — invited the residents of Zhukovsky to a people’s gathering. They planned to discuss the clear-cutting of the forest, which activists say is illegal, as well as meet with members of the municipal and regional Dumas.

April 21 was exactly one month to the day since the start of the logging. It was then [a month ago] that workers, acting under the protection of private security guards and police, cut down 15 hectares of old-growth pine forest. The camp has been operating in the forest for two weeks now: activists there are trying to prove that the cutting was done illegally and prevent further deforestation.

“There were about three hundred people at the gathering, and around twenty journalists,” the coordinator of the camp’s info center, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Voice of America’s correspondent. The entire logging area is now surrounded by a fence with two rows of barbed wire.

“The police said that the work area must be surrounded by a fence. Workers put up a fence,” the coordinator continues, “but whose workers they are is unclear. They had no documents, not a single one, no work orders, no permits. In the afternoon we went to break the fence.”

The forest’s defenders say that, in the absence of documents, there is no information about how much forest should be cut down and whether the right lot has been fenced off. “We were told that twelve hectares of forest would be cut. But as of today more than fifteen hectares have been cut down,” Andrei Nikolaenya, coordinator of the forest camp, told Voice of America’s Russia Service.

After trying to tear down the fence, people took to the road in order to attract the attention of passing cars. A fight with regular police and OMON riot police broke out, as well as with employees of the private security company Vityaz, which gained notoriety during the clashes in the Khimki Forest.

“The private security guards kicked people and even beat them with batons,” says the information center coordinator. “The police say that they’re citizen volunteers who help them out. Around forty security guards are on duty in the forest day and night. They approach the camp and swear at us. We are afraid that one night they’ll attack the camp. “

In the end, seventeen people were arrested, including journalists and passing cyclists. “We believe that everything going on here is illegal,” says Nikolaenya.

Nikolaenya fears that the camp could be torn down. “The police have said that we’ve gone too far and that they’re going to remove the camp. But if they take down the camp, a guerrilla movement will start here.”

Nikolaenya is optimistic. “We have very positive plans: to continue to fight for our rights, to bring matters to a political solution.”

The struggle for Tsagovsky Forest is already four years old. Since 1982, the forest had a special status as an old-growth forest, and until 2010 Tsagovsky Forest was considered an official local natural monument. Four years ago, the forest was stripped of its protected status: officials declared the decree granting it special status invalid and reclassified the forest an area of [ordinary] “trees and shrubs.” It was at this same time that preparations to build a highway through the forest began.

Officially, the new highway is needed to resolve the traffic situation in the city. In addition, according to a decree issued by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the National Aviation Center will be built in Zhukovsky. The highway is needed to provide access to it, to the Flight Research Institute, and to the venue of the annual Moscow Air Show (MAKS).

Moscow Region authorities have approved the construction of a public road “to the town of Zhukovsky (Gromov Flight Research Institute) from the M-5 Urals Highway.” Zhukovsky will receive compensation of 170 million rubles “for the loss of natural heritage.”

The photo, above, was taken from an online album of yesterday’s dramatic events. More information (in Russian) about the organized resistance to the clear cutting of the Tsagovsky Forest can be found at the web site freezhuk.org.

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Khimki Forest Defender Yaroslav Nikitenko Sentenced to 10 Days in Jail

www.novayagazeta.ru

December 26, 2011

Yaroslav Nikitenko, Activist with the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, Gets 10 Days in Jail Today

The sentence was handed down in the absence of the defendant’s lawyers, witnesses, and journalists. The reason for this was that officers at the Kitai Gorod police precinct, from which Nikitenko was transported to court this morning, gave his lawyers the address of one courthouse, while Nikitenko was taken to a different address, Elena Nadezhkina, a civic activist, told Novaya Gazeta.

She reported that the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest activist had been detained yesterday evening [December 25] on Novaya Ploshchad outside the entrance to Judicial Precinct No. 370 in Moscow’s Tverskoi District, where he had come to support Sergei Udaltsov, who yesterday was also sentenced to ten days of administrative arrest. Yaroslav Nikitenko was charged under the very same article of the Administrative Code (Article 19.3, “Failure to obey the lawful command of a police officer”) as Udaltsov. Nikitenko’s arrest report alleges that he shouted the slogan, “Judge Borovkova should be put on trial!”

We should note that on December 22 of this year, civic activist Gennady Stroganov and Oborona activist Fyodor Khodkov, also charged under Article 19.3, were sentenced to six days in jail by Judge Borovkova for their involvement in the protest action “Deputies, Turn in Your Mandates!” near the State Duma. Other Russia activist Sergei Aksyonov was also sentenced to five days in jail at this same time.

Moreover, their trials were conducted with numerous procedural violations, in particular, their lawyers were not admitted to the proceedings.

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Here is Yaroslav Nikitenko in a video appeal (in English), taped in May of this year in the Khimki Forest:

A Facebook group, Freedom for Yaroslav Nikitenko, has been set up to discuss how to support him during his imprisonment.

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Join Khimki Forest Solidarity Actions August 26th!

We’re asking you to make actions of solidarity and to distribute our petition!

http://www.change.org/petitions/russian-president-dmitri-medvedev-halt-the-destruction-of-khimki-forest

August 26th, 2010, is a historic date for the grassroots protest movement in Russia.

That is the day, just one year ago, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev halted construction of the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway because it would destroy the Khimki Forest, one of the nation’s few protected old-growth forests.

His action was forced by a massive outcry of thousands of people who said “no” to more environmental degradation and “no” to the corruption, intimidation, violence and arrests.

Back, then a year ago, the Khimki Forest defenders were credited with sparking one of Russia’s “broadest protest movements in years” and the fact that the President listened was very important. Medvedev even admitted that the selected route through Khimki happened because of corruption — where officials got to profit from the selling of valuable undeveloped forest land.

A lot has changed in the last year.

Medvedev had promised public and expert hearings on the project. Instead, without public input, he has allowed construction to begin again. Trees are being cut, and protesters in the forest are confronting bulldozers every week.

The shameful company benefiting from this corruption is Vinci, the transnational company based in France that is leading the concession to build the highway.

This company has pressured the Russian government to begin construction quickly, which has led to more violence in the forest. Vinci is complicit in human rights abuses with its involvement in this project and investigations reveal its offshore tax havens, which is why 25,000 people have signed another protest petition against Vinci and international demonstrations have been made.

Please join us in solidarity as we work to halt construction again and save this forest. Sign the petition, and email us at savekhimkiforest@gmail.com if you can hold a solidarity protest on August 26th, 2011.

We will not give up.

— The Save Khimki Forest Movement

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Khimki One Year Later

Khimki One Year Later: July 28, 2010 – July 28, 2011

July 28 marked a year to the day since the famous demonstration in Khimki during which 300-400 young anarchists and antifascists from Moscow and the Moscow Region marched from the train station to the Khimki town hall (to the applause of local residents), where they set off smoke grenades, pelted the building with stones, and spray-painted several slogans on its walls.

It was a protest not only against the blatant clear-cutting of the free Khimki Forest to make way for a Moscow-Petersburg paid highway of dubious worth, but also against the methods the woodcutters employed to shield their actions from public protest. Environmentalists who tried to get in the way of the construction equipment were dispersed not only by police but also by masked soccer hooligans. When their masks slipped off, the protesters recognized several of them as ultra-rightists.

The demonstration was spontaneous: it was held instead of a concert by two Moscow hardcore groups. During the demonstration, Pyotr Silayev, the singer for one of these groups, Proverochnaya Lineika, encouraged the demonstrators with chants shouted into a megaphone. The megaphone is one of Silyaev’s traditional “musical instruments”; you can find old videos on the Web where it is clear that he is shouting his fight songs into a megaphone: “It’s time to take the consequences for your culture! It’s time to take the consequences!”

Pyotr has been taking the consequences ever since: after managing to flee the country the day after the demonstration, he has spent time as a homeless vagrant in Western Europe, a squatter occupying abandoned dwellings, and a prisoner in a Polish camp for illegal immigrants. He is now applying for political asylum in a country neighboring Russia.

Another of the “defendants,” Muscovite Denis Solopov, an antifascist activist, artist (the first exhibitions of his paintings took place recently in Kyiv and Moscow), and a jeweler by training, was held in Lukyanovsky Prison, Kyiv’s notorious pre-trial detention facility, from March 2 to July 13 of this year. During this time he managed to catch pneumonia and spent Victory Day, May 9, in solitary confinement. Denis was meanly arrested outside the offices of the Kyiv Migration Service, which had rejected his asylum request. The fact that at the time he had already been recognized as UN mandate refugee and that this status had been confirmed by the Kyiv office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, did not stop the Ukrainian jailers: they had in hand a request to extradite Denis to the Russian Federation. However, all the protests actions organized by comrades in Kyiv, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities were not in vain: on July 28, 2011, Denis Solopov left Ukraine and went further into exile, traveling to a third country [the Netherlands] which had agreed to admit him as a political refugee.

Two more participants in the Khimki demonstration heard the Khimki city court’s verdict in late June. Alexei Gaskarov, a correspondent for the web site www.ikd.ru (the Institute for Collective Action has specialized in coverage and analysis of social protests in Russia for nearly seven years, and Alexei has worked for them most of that time), was acquitted, while Maxim Solopov, a student at the Russian State University for the Humanities, was given a two years of probation. It was a surprising decision, considering that one and the same witnesses gave contradictory testimony against both of them, and that the defense had challenged claims that these witnesses had actually been in Khimki during the demonstration.

This largely “vegetarian” sentence was preceded by the stint Alexei and Maxim spent in the Mozhaisk Pre-Trial Detention Facility during the first phase of the preliminary investigation (from late July to mid-October 2010), as well as a vigorous public campaign for their release. Thus, during the first international action days on their behalf (September 17-20, 2010), thirty-six protest actions were held in thirty-two cities in twelve countries in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in North America. Protests also took place in Russia, Siberia, and Ukraine, of course. The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages managed in a short time to mobilize not only people in Moscow, Petersburg, and Kyiv in support of the young Russian activists, but also people in Krakow, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris, London, and Berlin. In Athens and New York, protests for the release of Alexei and Maxim took place on two occasions in late September.

Political refugees from Moscow who (unlike Denis Solopov and Pyotr Silayev) have not made official asylum requests, continue to take the consequences for the Khimki demonstration, as well as for their protest culture, including the stones, smoke grenades, and spray-paint cans. They have dispersed to various cities and countries. They have not seen friends and relatives for a year now, and they are still afraid to return home. They were forced to flee Moscow a campaign of mass intimidation unprecedented in recent Russian history. The campaign has focused on the youth subculture scene to which many of them belonged – the antifascist punk/hardcore community. Arrests, searches, interrogations, and beatings took place throughout most of August 2010 not only in Moscow and the Moscow Region, but also in other regional capitals, including Nizhny Novgorod and Kostroma. In Zhukovsky, a town in the Moscow Region, seventy people were arrested before a concert, while in Kostroma more than 260 people were arrested in similar circumstances. The police officers who interrogated antifascist Alexander Pakhotin promised to cut off his ear, and it took him several weeks to recover from the beating he suffered at their hands. But they haven’t left him alone even now, a year later. In early July of this year he suddenly got a phone call inviting him to report to Petrovka, 38 [Moscow police HQ], for an informal discussion. Alexander reasonably replied to the caller that he preferred to talk with police investigators only after receiving an official summons. For Moscow police investigators, however, an official summons is, apparently, something incredibly difficult. It’s probably easier for them to hunt down and beat up obstinate witnesses – which is exactly what happened to Alexander Pakhotin.

Further evidence of the secret police’s abiding interest in the people who took part in last year’s Khimki demonstration is the canard that circulated in the Russian media in late June: Pyotr Silayev had allegedly been arrested in Brussels by Interpol at the request of Russian law enforcement authorities. Antifascists quickly refuted this lie: at the time, Pyotr was fishing, and he was not in Brussels. Apparently, the authorities were trying their best to patch up their reputation after losing the casing against Gaskarov and Solopov in the Khimki court.

And all this time the saga of the Khimki Forest per se has continued. There was last year’s big demonstration on Pushkin Square [in Moscow] with headliners music critic Artemy Troitsky, rock musician Yuri Shevchuk, and Maria Lyubicheva, lead singer for the popular group Barto. Then was there the temporary halt to the logging of the forest. This was followed by a vicious musical parody of the activists by a musician [Sergei Shnurov] who had been previously seemed like a member of the “alternative scene,” but now turned out to be singing almost with the voice of the Ministry of Truth. There was wintertime tree-hugging and springtime subbotniks. And finally, there was Russian president’s meeting with public figures and his announcement that the highway would go through the forest after all. Subsequently, we’ve witnessed the Anti-Seliger forum, to which two of every species of oppositional beast came (where were all of them during the constant demos and clashes in Khimki?), and their using the misfortune of the Khimkians to grandstand in the run-up to the 2011-2012 election season. Finally, there is the tent camp set up by the Rainbow Keepers and other eco-anarchists, which opened on July 27, 2011, the eve of the first anniversary of the famous demonstration.

What has this past year shown us? That in our country, any project, even one that is obviously directed against society, will be forced through all the same if big money and the authorities back it. That there is still no control over criminalized local authorities: not only have none of the officials mixed up in dubious affairs been put on trial, but none have even been fired. That the power of social solidarity still counts for something: if it cannot stop harmful projects, it can at least defend activists who have fallen captive to the penal system and get people out of jail. That radical political action (of which last year’s demonstration was an instance) is quite effective at drawing attention to acute problems, but that it must be effectively deployed and backed up with infrastructure, however informal; otherwise, the emotional, political, and physical toll on the movement will be too high and may jeopardize its very existence. This, perhaps, is the most important lesson for the social movement, but it bears repeating. As you know, in our country, even if you have brains and talent, it takes a huge effort to roast your enemy over the fire. For if you relax for just a second, lo and behold, he’s already roasting you over the fire. But there is hope, and the future still hasn’t been written.

 —Vlad Tupikin
July 27-31, 2011

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“Kind of a sticky situation”: RT on Police Repression of Khimki Forest Defenders

The squeaky clean, neatly coiffured Anglophone kiddies on RT (formerly known as Russia Today) offer up a four-and-a-half-minute lesson in collaborationism:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Back in the non-RT-filtered real world, “security guards,” unidentified thugs, and “the police” continue to whack on the Khimki Forest defenders, both on and off the court:

www.ikd.ru

In the early hours of May 14, around 3 a.m., one of the members of the environmentalist camp [in the Khimki Forest], Yuri Petin, was subjected to a vicious attack. Around three in the morning, Yuri was near the grocery store on Vashutino Highway (in the Khimki municipal district), trying to hitch a ride in order to go home. Right at this moment a black Hyundai sedan (whose license number was either х531см or х513см) pulled up. Four men got out of the car and rushed towards Yuri, crying, “Now we’ve got you!” They began to beat Yuri. They threw the activist to the ground and ordered him not to look at them, threatening him with bodily harm.

A man wearing a uniform from the private security firm Vityaz approached the assailants, who began to give him orders in a commanding tone. “I got the impression that they were coordinating the actions of the security guard. Concretely, they told the security guard the following: ‘Tell the police that he [Petin] was tossing firecrackers in the Khimki Forest.’ Then the police drove up. The policemen began chatting with the men who had been beating me and security firm employees. I was then taken to police precinct No. 2, at Kudryatsev Street, 4, in the town of Khimki,” Yuri recounts.

[Petin] was delivered to the police station at 5:30 a.m. and taken to the on-duty interrogating officer. The officer refused to let Yuri file assault charges and began accusing him of setting off firecrackers in the forest. The officer then took a statement from Yuri and questioned the security guards. Police attempted to photograph Yuri and take his fingerprints, threatening to send him to a pre-trial detention facility, but he refused to let them do this. Yuri was held in the police station until 12:00 p.m. At noon, Yuri was sent home, accompanied by police officers, to retrieve his [internal] passport, and at 1:00 p.m. he returned to the police precinct. There Yuri was turned over to a second interrogating officer, who drew up an arrest protocol alleging that Yuri had violated fire safety rules. The officer told Yuri that the protocol would be sent to the fire inspectorate. The accused activist was not given a copy of the protocol. “The interrogating officer told me that he could do with me anything he wanted, that if he wanted he could plant narcotics or a weapon on me and send me to prison,” explains Yuri.

The victim has petitioned the prosecutor’s office, demanding the arrest of the people who attacked him. He has also demanded that the prosecutor take measures against the assailants and Khimki police officers, who violated the law on the police and refused to file assault charges, as well as against the private security guards who gave false testimony to police officers.

Yesterday (May 15), a dozen or so activists from the Russian Socialist Movement, Left Front, and the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) carried out what is fondly known in Russia as an “unsanctioned” march to protest the new round of illegal felling in the Khimki Forest. Five activists were almost immediately arrested by police, and four of the arrestees were later charged with “disobeying the police” and released with a summons to appear later in court. IKD has the details (in Russian).

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How to help the Khimki Forest defenders, who are risking life and limb in the forest

khimkiforest.org

The situation in Khimki Forest near Moscow is very serious. Several times during the last month activists have succeeded in stopping illegal preparatory works for a motorway being carried out at the site, but at the price of repeatedly being beaten and arrested. Every day, activists get beaten up and injured. This morning, Yevgenia Chirikova suffered a leg injury which doesn’t allow her to move for the next 2 days.

Despite all these attacks, the camp in Khimki Forest is still continuing.

Please help and protest:

Ask the Russian government or the Russian embassy in your country to stop immediately this shameful involvement in illegal forest destruction and covering up of criminals! Attacks against activists must be stopped and investigated.

Russian embassy contacts can be found at:
http://www.rusembassy.org/

You can also send a letter to President Medvedev through the online form at:
http://eng.letters.kremlin.ru/

Ask the involved French international construction company Vinci to stop being involved into the Moscow-St.Petersburg road construction project which is clearly associated with violation of civil and human rights, corruption, arbitrary and unlawfulness.

Vinci contacts can be found at:
http://www.vinci.com/vinci.nsf/en/locations/pages/homepage.htm

Petitions are ongoing at: (aimed at Vinci)
http://www.change.org/petitions/save-khimki-forest-stand-with-russias-hu…

and (aimed at President Medvedev):
http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_khimki_forest?vc

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The Battle for the Khimki Forest (May 2011)

An appeal from Yaroslav Nikitenko (Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest):

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khimkiforest.org

Russia’s Khimki Forest is not the peaceful place it used to be, back when it was a 200-year-old oak forest known for its ecological importance to the Moscow region.

Today, it is filled with the roar of bulldozers, and the screams of activists at night. For the last week, the Khimki Forest defenders, many of whom I have been corresponding with for 2 months, have been taking turns camping out to defend the forest from illegal cutting. Each night, they put their lives at risk and every day they have experienced escalating violence, including violent attacks by private security forces and unknown thugs. There have been injuries too—broken noses, head traumas—but it is not for naught. They have been somewhat successful in stopping the logging, at least temporarily. But that can change day by day.

It is a disturbing scene, as you can tell from news articles describing the violence published this week in outlets including AFP, Radio Free Europe, and The Moscow Times. I also encourage you to read Yaroslav Nikitenko’s account of just one night in the forest, published on the Save Khimki Forest blog. The dramatic account begins:

“Dear all, as I suspected, many bad events happened. When it got dark, they turned on the harvester. They moved fast into the dip of the clearing. We ran after them from the camp. The securities did not let us go, they caught us by clothes and pushed us. But we went further and further, though slower. Then the harvester started to fell down the trees. We rushed through the guards to it. On a narrow place the guards stopped us again. We called Russian media, the members of the President Council, the deputies, and of course the police….”

More than 20,000 people have signed the Save Khimki Movement’s petition in solidarity with these brave activists. If you have not heard about it already, you can read more about their background, their recent progress here, and then sign their petition.

They are targeting Vinci, the translational corporation that heads the construction concession that is working to destroy this forest to build a toll highway. Currently, in its demand for 100,000 Euros as a fee for construction delays, the company is directly contributing to the violence and attacks happening this week. As Mikhail Matveev, one of the movement’s leaders says, “Thus, Vinci directly motivates perpetrators of the project to use all measure of pressing activists.”

Please watch the video appeal filmed this week in the video section to learn more and sign and share the petition immediately.

Blog by Jess Leber on change.org

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themoscownews.com

Khimki campaigners go to Paris

by Lidia Okorokova, 05/05/2011

The battle over the Khimki highway took a new turn this week as environmental activists petitioned French company Vinci’s Paris headquarters and demanded that the FSB investigate who really owns the Russian contractor tearing down the forest.

Meanwhile, in Khimki Forest, a new summer protest season is now underway, as campaigners were attacked by private security guards, and one Greenpeace activist was beaten up. The demand for an investigation into possible corruption came as the Defend Khimki Forest campaign and international NGO Bankwatch published a report questioning who will profit from the $8 billion Moscow-St. Petersburg highway, which is one of Russia’s first public-private partnerships in infrastructure.

The leader of the environmental campaigners, Yevgenia Chirikova, took a petition to the Paris headquarters of Vinci, the French company overseeing construction, and passed on the Bankwatch report to the Federal Security Service with a request that it investigate the web of offshore companies that stand behind the main Russian contractor, North West Concession Company.

The FSB’s press service said it had “no such information” about a request from environmental activists. Vinci’s Paris press office did not answer e-mailed questions by press time.

French-Russian joint venture

The complex structures surrounding Vinci’s joint venture with Russian contractors are aimed at hiding the true beneficiaries of North-West Concession Company’s lucrative contract, Pippa Gallop, a researcher from Bankwatch, told The Moscow News.

According to the report, North West Concession Company is 100-per cent owned by Vinci Concessions Russie SA Rueil Malmaison.

Vinci Concessions Russie SA Rueil Malmaison, together with Russian company N-Trans, established NWCC after the road was commissioned by the Russian government in 2008.

NWCC has recently reshuffled its top managers, with previous CEO Viktor Saveliev making way for Frenchman Pierre-Yves Estrade.

“We are in the transition period now and we are changing our CEO,” NWCC spokesman Sergei Ilinsky told The Moscow News on Thursday.

Opaque ownership structure

According to Gallop, NWCC is linked to a series of opaque privately-held companies, several of which are registered in tax havens such as the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus.

Activists claim that this means large sums of Russian taxpayers’ money, funnelled into the public-private partnership, are ending up in offshore accounts – with no reliable way of knowing who the ultimate beneficiaries are.

Environmentalists have been fighting against the project to build a highway through Khimki Forest since 2004, and see Bankwatch’s report as more ammunition in their ongoing struggle.

But the Russian government insists that the highway is desperately needed to improve road infrastructure between the country’s two biggest cities – and says the road should go ahead, regardless of whether it is destroying environmentally sensitive forests.

Petitioning Paris

Chirikova flew to Paris on May 2 to deliver Bankwatch’s report and a petition of 20,000 signatures against the road’s construction to a meeting of Vinci’s shareholders.

She told The Moscow News that Russian eco-activists were now spreading their campaign internationally with the help of their European counterparts.

“The French are using our country to get even richer – it’s clear that the law doesn’t work here, therefore Vinci has all the means to receive even more money from this project,” she said.

New protest camp

Chirikova said that, after half a year of trying to persuade authorities to change the route of the highway, she and other campaigners were now determined to fight on through a new protest camp at the construction site.

The camp was joined by local residents, representatives of Greenpeace, activists from the Left Front and Just Russia State Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov.

Activists managed to stop further works at the site with the help of Gudkov, who joined the campaigners and asked contractors for their permit papers, RIA Novosti reported.

Since the camp was set up this week, two activists were beaten up, with one having his nose broken, Chirikova told The Moscow News.

State highway company Avtodor had a complaint about the activists, however, alleging that “some of the activists set expensive tree-harvesting equipment on fire, which damaged it greatly,” RIA Novosti reported.

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