Tag Archives: Yaroslav Nikitenko

Backlash: Other Russia Activist Taisiya Osipova Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Taisiya Osipova

lenta.ru
December 30, 2011
Backlash: Other Russia Activist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Ilya Azar

As 2011 came to a close, Other Russia activist Taisiya Osipova was sentenced in Smolensk to ten years in prison for the sale and possession of narcotics. Osipova, who suffers from several serious diseases and has a five-year-old daughter, was kept in detention for over a year before hearing the verdict. The opposition and human rights activists consider the Osipova case political and symbolic for Russia.

“After Taisiya Osipova’s verdict, the opposition’s struggle for power in Russia has turned into a struggle against pure evil, into a fight on the side of good,” wrote Sergei Aksenov, a former National Bolshevik and a leader of The Other Russia, on his Twitter account. And he’s not the only one: on the evening of December 29, the Runet seethed with indignation, and the word “bitches,” addressed to the authorities in general and the judiciary in particular, was one of the mildest epithets.

According to oppositionists, the main representative of evil in the Taisiya Osipova case is Yevgeny Dvoryanchikov, judge of Smolensk’s Zadneprovsky District Court. It was he who on December 29 sentenced Osipova to ten years in prison for possession and sale of drugs under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code. The fact that Osipova has diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic pyelonephritis, and that she has a five-year-old daughter, Katrine, made no impression on him. (The World Organization Against Torture had twice appealed to Russian authorities to release Osipova.)

True, Dvoryanchikov still did not have not an easy time making the decision: he retired to chambers to write the verdict at twelve noon, returning to the courtroom at around midnight (he began reading out the verdict at 11:15 p.m.). It is not clear why Dvoryanchikov took so long to write the verdict and what was going in his chambers during this time. Other Russia leader and writer Eduard Limonov has already labeled the judge’s actions “vile” and an attempt to conceal the verdict from the public.

The general public does not know about the Osipova case, despite the fact this past summer (when the verdict was supposed to have been rendered), Other Russia activists staged a sit-down strike over several days at the Solovki Stone in downtown Moscow. The police confronted the strikers as best they could, surrounding the square and detaining the harmless activists as they made their way to the stone.

Osipova was arrested on November 23, 2010, when five packets containing an unknown substance and marked bills were found in her home. Osipova was charged with possession of narcotics possession under Article 228.1, Paragraph 3 of the Criminal Code.

According to police investigators, Osipova had sold four grams of heroin for three thousands rubles, and an additional nine grams were found in her home. Defense attorneys and journalists were alarmed by the fact that the witnesses during the controlled buys [staged by police] were three young women associated with pro-Kremlin youth movements. At the same time, the [packets containing the] seized substance were not fingerprinted: defense attorneys are thus certain that the heroin was planted in Taisiya’s home.

Other Russia activists have always maintained that the Osipova case is utterly political. Her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, is a member of The Other Russia’s executive committee. Osipova claimed that the police investigators who detained her told her directly that they were not interested in her, but in her husband, who lives in Moscow. Fearing arrest, Fomchenkov never once traveled from the capital to Smolensk to visit his arrested wife.

Alexander Averin, a representative of The Other Russia and ex-press secretary of the banned National Bolshevik Party, told Lenta.Ru that police had immediately promised to give her ten years if she did not testify against Fomchenkov. The guilty verdict was not a surprise for the opposition, although few had expected such a harsh sentence (despite the fact that the prosecutor had asked the judge to sentence Osipova to twelve years and eight months in prison).

“I see Dvoryanchikov’s face: he knows there is nothing to the charges. He’s just carrying out orders. It’s not his decision, but he’s an ambitious careerist, and doesn’t want problems. So I just have to get to the appeals stage and keep working,” Osipova herself said in an interview with Grani.Ru in December.

Svetlana Sidorkina, an attorney with the human rights association Agora who, along with Smolensk lawyer Natalya Shaposhnikova, served as Osipova’s defense counsel, told Lenta.Ru that, in the wake of the verdict, defense attorneys intend both to file an appeal and petition the [European Court of Human Rights in] Strasbourg. Sidorkina has no illusions about the prospects of an appeal. “We definitely hoped for the best, but we also didn’t rule out such a [harsh] outcome. I assumed that the sentence would be six and a half years, while Shaposhnikova [thought it would be] eight, but unfortunately we both guessed wrong,” said the lawyer.

The Other Russia now intends to fight for Osipova, and is counting on public support. In December 2011, civil society in Russia, especially in Moscow, suddenly and powerfully made itself heard. Tens of thousands of people came out for the fair elections rallies on Bolotnaya Square and Sakharov Boulevard, and almost a thousand people came to a protest in defense of [arrested] Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov.

“This is a slap in the face of civil society. People came out and demanded honesty and justice from the authorities, and this was the response — Judge Borovkova, the arrests of Udaltsov and Nikitenko, and, to top it all off, a ten-year sentence for Osipova. The state has recovered its senses and delivered a counterblow. I wonder how society will react to this — will it go celebrate the New Year or will it defend the freedom of political prisoners?” Averin put it emotionally last night.

He added that the traditional Strategy 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 would be dedicated to Taisia and political prisoners in general. “Lots of people are indignant over this verdict. Different people have been calling me who weren’t planning to come out on December 31 but who have now decided to go,” said Averin. On the night of December 30, there in fact were appeals on the Internet to go to the unauthorized rally in support of Osipova on Triumfalnaya Square.

A year ago on December 31, Boris Nemtsov and Ilya Yashin, leaders of the Solidarity movement, were arrested at a Strategy 31 rally. They both rang in the New Year behind bars: Nemtsov was sentenced to fifteen days in jail, while Yashin was sentenced to five. In 2009, Sergei Mokhnatkin was arrested during a New Year’s Eve rally: he was later sentenced to two and a half years in prison for [allegedly] assaulting a police officer.

It is a big question whether “enraged city dwellers” will take to Triumfalnaya Square over the harsh verdict handed to ex-National Bolshevik Osipova. Or are rigged elections the only thing that, for the time being, can really enrage them?

Photo courtesy of Free Voina. See their coverage of the Osipova case here (in Russian) and here (in English).

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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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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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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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!

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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.

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