Tag Archives: Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest

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.

_____

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.

2 Comments

Filed under activism, political repression, protests, Russian society

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

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, protests

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

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, film and video, political repression, Russian society

“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.

_____

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).

______

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

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, film and video, leftist movements, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

The Battle for the Khimki Forest (May 2011)

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

_____

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

_____

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, film and video, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, protests, Russian society

Vinci: Get Out of Khimki Forest!

“Ultimate Fighting in Khimki Forest,” 19 April 2011, Khimki Forest, Moscow Region. Video by Oleg Kozyrev, special for Echo of Moscow Radio

_________

Russian Anti-Corruption Movement, Backed By 20,000 Worldwide, Demands Major EU Corporation Pull Out of Illegal Forest Clearing


Before its annual shareholders meeting, individuals in 161 countries call on Vinci, one of the EU’s largest corporations, to end its involvement in Moscow-St. Petersburg Highway project until human rights abuses and environmental destruction are addressed.

27 April 2011 — Russian activists leading one of their country’s biggest protest movements in years are accusing Vinci, a Paris-based global construction firm, of complicity with human rights abuses and corruption perpetuated by government officials.

More than 20,000 people from 161 countries have signed their petition, started on the online social action platform Change.org, to denounce Vinci’s involvement in the toll highway project through Khimki Forest. Supporters plan to present the petition at Vinci’s annual shareholders meeting in Paris on May 2. They are asking Vinci to end its involvement in the project, unless Russian officials will reconsider several available alternative routes that go through industrial areas and would spare the legally protected forest land.

Police arrested and temporarily imprisoned 11 members of the Save Khimki Forest Movement last week as they peacefully protested ongoing illegal clearing in Khimki. Four days later security officers beat and robbed a local journalist on the scene. The ancient forest in the outskirts of Moscow is the site of an unlikely four-year battle to stop construction of a €1 billion toll highway through this forest.

Vinci, the only foreign firm involved in the concession deal to build the highway, is party to a new agreement that could allow construction of the controversial Khimki segment to proceed within weeks or even days.

The Save Khimki Forest Movement’s campaign has, in just one month, become one of the most popular global petitions on Change.org and has garnered additional support from Avaaz, the largest activism community in the world, as well a number of civil society organizations throughout Europe. This week, protest actions are being held by supporters around the world, including in Moscow, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Bremen, Prague, Mexico City, Klin, and Khimki, before Vinci’s shareholders meeting.

So far, Vinci has washed its hands of responsibility for the litany of documented abuses surrounding the project. In just one example, two journalists who exposed the corrupt officials involved were beaten badly in 2008 and 2010; one, Mikhail Beketov, is today in a wheelchair and unable to speak.

“We are asking Vinci to demand President Medvedev spare the forest and seriously address the abuses that have occurred. There are many alternative routes available. By doing nothing, Vinci will destroy a more than 200-year-old forest against the will of the Russian people,”said Khimki resident Yevgenia Chirikova, the leading figure of the movement. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden personally awarded her a “Woman of Courage” award in his visit to Russia this year.

“Sixty six percent of Russian citizens are against the project. But no one hears them. Vinci is also supporting outrageous corruption among our government officials that led to this selected route,” said Yaroslav Nikitenko, one of the leading activists.

Their work to save Khimki Forest gained national momentum as it became symbolic of larger issues of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental degradation in Russia. Last summer, about 5,000 protesters demonstrated in Moscow, spurring President Medvedev to halt the project until he approved it again in December.

French MEP Michèle Rivasi, a member of Green-EFA Group, also called on Vinci to take action this week. “The battle for Khimki forest in Russia is a symbol for the green movement. Russian activists are not only fighting to protect their forest and their environment, they are also fighting against corruption, censorship, violation of laws and human rights, oppression against civil society… Since the beginning, this project has been done without any real public participation, what is going against essential and basic rules of democracy. The Green-EFA group in the European Parliament has supported them since the beginning, and it’s particularly shocking to see a French company – Vinci – participating to this harmful project. I ask Russian authorities to stop violence against activists and Vinci to withdraw from this project,” she said.

Vinci is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Paris on May 2, and this effort is timed as a last-ditch appeal to the corporation to take a stand before the old-growth Khimki Forest—an area ecologists say is crucial to the environmental health of Moscow—is lost forever.

Contacts:

Save Khimki Forest Movement (MOSCOW): Yaroslav Nikitenko
+7-916-743-3759, metst13@gmail.com, (Russian, English)

Save Khimki Forest Movement (MOSCOW): Yevgenia Chirikova
+7-925-500-8236, ecmoru@gmail.com, (Russian, English)

Change.org (WASHINGTON, D.C.): Jess Leber, Environmental Editor
+1-516-658-9606, jess@change.org (English)

Contact for French MEP Michèle Rivasi, Group of the Greens/European
Free Alliance (BRUSSELS):
Michele.rivasi@europarl.europa.eu
+32-2-2845397

Contact for Vinci (PARIS):
Tel.: +33-1 47 16 45 39, +33-1 47 16 35 00

__________

“The Police and Its Laws in Khimki Forest,” 23 April 2011, Tolstoy Park, Khimki (Moscow Region). Video by Oleg Kozyrev, special for Echo of Moscow Radio

Leave a comment

Filed under activism, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, protests, Russian society

Save Khimki Forest: Stand with Russia’s Human Rights and Environmental Activists

www.change.org

Take action to save Russia’s Khimki Forest today.

Russian activists and journalists have survived beatings, arrests and intimidation during our campaign to save one of Moscow’s last old-growth forests from destruction. Our movement to reroute the toll highway that would cut through Khimki Forest has become Russia’s most inspiring and largest activist movements in a long time.

It is about more than just a forest.

We are fighting a legacy of corruption and bribery among government officials, law enforcement and industry that has allowed this project to move forward. Last year, after thousands of citizens protested in Moscow’s center, we won a huge victory when President Dmitry Medvedev temporarily halted construction. One of our lead organizers, Yevgenia Chirikova, is a mother of two who lives in Khimki and who has bravely spearheaded this campaign since 2007 at direct risk to her family’s safety.

Now construction is set to begin again.

As soon as this month, the French multinational construction company Vinci is authorized to begin the first phase of the highway.

This is the best chance for us to stop the project before construction crews arrive. We are turning to you to increase our international support.

Since the Russian government has failed us, we are targeting Vinci, which could make a huge profit from this project. It is the only Western company involved in the construction.

We are asking Vinci to end its involvement in the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway until an alternative route can be found that spares Khimki Forest.

We are also organizing an international week of action from April 24th to April 30th. We hope cities around the world will participate in demonstrations in solidarity. One action you can take to stand up for the environment and human rights in Russia is to support this petition.

Please sign now. You may also leave a personal message when you sign. And for more information on how to get involved email ecmoru@gmail.com or follow this Facebook page. Please tell us if you represent an environment or human rights group and want to sign a coalition letter of support.

Thank you, Save Khimki Forest Movement and Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages

__________

Petition Letter

Save Khimki Forest

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with Vinci for its involvement in destroying Russia’s Khimki Forest.

We are asking Vinci to live up to its UN Global Compact commitments. By joining the Compact, Vinci has committed to “support and respect internationally proclaimed human rights” and to make sure it is not “complicit in human rights abuses.” One glance at the list of human rights abuses against Khimki Forest activists, and it is clear that Vinci is violating its compact with its involvement in the project.

Ecological nihilism and human rights abuses, including beatings, attacks on the forest defenders by people wearing Nazi symbolics, who were officially hired by the construction company, and unlawful arrests and intimidation, have occurred against activists who are protesting the plans.

As the only Western company involved in the highway building, I ask that you pull out of the project or refuse to begin construction until the Russian government chooses an alternative route and addresses the human rights abuses that have occurred.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Please go to www.change.org to sign the petition now!

__________

www.washingtonpost.com

Posted at 04:23 PM ET, 03/24/2011

One woman’s fight to preserve a Russian forest

By William J. Dobson

Last summer I wrote an op-ed describing the unlikely battle between Yevgenia Chirikova and the Kremlin. Yevgenia is a young mother of two with no background in political activism, but over the past three years she has become one of Russia’s most outspoken — and effective — environmental activists. This morning I received an e-mail from a member of her team telling me that Yevgenia’s fight is now taking another nasty turn.

The fight is over the future of Khimki Forest, a dense oak forest that is supposed to be an environmentally protected green space under Russian federal law. Nearly 10 years ago, Yevgenia and her husband moved to Khimki — a small suburban community outside of Moscow — to raise a family. While on maternity leave with her second daughter, Yevgenia unexpectedly found signs posted in the forest indicating that the oaks were to be clear cut. She later learned that the minister of transportation, Igor Levitin, along with local officials, intended to bulldoze the forest — in contravention of Russian law — in order to build a motorway that would connect Moscow and St. Petersburg, with a loop to Sheremetyevo Airport. These officials stand to benefit handsomely from the road’s construction. (According to a Russian anti-corruption group, new roads in Russia cost roughly $237 million a kilometer; in the United States, it is about $6 million for the same distance.) When Yevgenia raised objections to the project, Russian officials told her to mind her own business.

She didn’t. Instead, she began to talk to people in her community, organize rallies and stage protests. The authorities did not welcome her involvement. Members of her group, In Defense of Khimki, were threatened, harassed and intimidated. Mikhail Beketov, a local journalist and member of the movement, was brutally attacked outside his home. Left for dead, Beketov suffered permanent brain damage and is now confined to a wheelchair. But, at this moment, because of Yevgenia’s efforts and those who have joined the fight, Khimki Forest remains.

But the regime is now employing new tactics. If it can’t scare Yevgenia into submission, then it will put pressure on the people she loves. This morning I received e-mails from Yaroslav Nikitenko and Ivan Smirnov, members of In Defense of Khimki. They described how the new pressure point for the regime has become Yevgenia’s family — specifically her husband and two daughters.

Recently, representatives of the municipal department of guardianship “dropped by” to check on Yevgenia’s apartment. The officials alleged that they had received a letter from one of her neighbors claiming that she “beats” and “starves” her daughters, Liza and Sasha. The charges are absurd. Afraid that they would attempt to take her children from her, Yevgenia refused to open her door. Later, the department admitted that none of her neighbors had written such a letter, brushing off the whole encounter as simply their “duty” to check on the children.

On March 16, one day after Yevgenia led a protest calling for the minister of transportation’s removal, officials paid a visit to her husband’s company, en electrical engineering firm called EZOP. Her husband, Mikhail Matveev, founded the company years ago. Even though the police brought no charges with them, they raided his office, interrogated him and several of his employees, and seized company documents and paperwork. Mikhail had already learned that the authorities were calling his clients, alleging that there was a criminal case against him (when there is in fact none). Nor was the raid a complete surprise. A few days earlier, someone had left a comment on the In Defense of Khimki Web site, writing, “We’ll raid your company EZOP in the nearest future, prepare your papers!” It is clear to Yevgenia and her husband that this harassment is payback for her unwillingness to stop fighting.

The battle to save Khimki Forest may be about to enter another chapter. The government and business interests behind the construction project claim that they will begin cutting down the oaks in late April. In the meantime, Yevgenia and her supporters intend to hold protests and rallies to raise awareness that the construction crews are coming. They also intend to put public pressure on the French construction company Vinci, the only Western business group that supports this highway project.

Last April, when I first met Yevgenia, she took me on a walk in these woods that she is fighting to protect. It was clear to me that she now sees her activism as something much bigger than simply defending Khimki Forest; she sees it as a struggle against an authoritarian system that runs roughshod over its citizens. While we were walking through the forest, I asked if she was ever afraid that the authorities would try to harm her. After what had happened to Mikhail Beketov, it was an obvious question. She told me that if she thought about it too much she would go crazy. “My tactic is complete openness,” she told me. “Whatever I undertake, I try to somehow to reflect it or publish it in all kinds of media.” Yevgenia believes that the more people know about her and her fight, the harder it will be for the authorities to strike out in violence. It isn’t a guarantee, but she knows that it is easier for the regime to harm those who remain in the shadows.

If you are curious to know more about In Defense of Khimki Forest, you can find them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/khimki.forest). Also, look for the petition they plan to issue on Change.org next week.

Near the end of our walk, she said, “If something bad happens to me, then my activity was not useless. Other people will continue, and it will be impossible to make people shut up.” Hopefully, people will raise their voices sooner, not later.

1 Comment

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