Tag Archives: Yevgenia Chirikova

“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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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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Yevgenia Chirikova on Why We Should Support the Khimki Hostages

Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, on why we should demand the release of the Khimki hostages, Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov. To find out what you can do to support them and secure their release, go to khimkibattle.org.

I think that the way the authorities are treating Gaskarov and Solopov is needlessly harsh and cruel. It’s barbarism: it’s wrong to put people in a pretrial detention facility for two months for a few slogans [painted on a wall]. I think that this sort of “show of strength” is simply proof of the fact that the authorities are powerless to solve this problem. There would have been no attack on the Khimki town hall if the authorities had resolved the problem of the Khimki Forest in a timely and civilized manner. It’s not such a huge problem to build the highway so that it bypasses the forest.

I think that all these court hearings that are taking place now should not be held in closed chamber but should be open, that the system should be transparent to the public. And I think that the [demonstration on September 19 in Moscow in support of Gaskarov and Solopov] is important, that you come out for it. Any one of us can be grabbed like this and thrown into jail without a proper trial and investigation, and this is what we’re seeing now in the case of Gaskarov and Solopov.

We ourselves, the defenders of the Khimki Forest, have encountered the same approach: we have been detained without any legal grounds and thrown into the “monkey cage” at the 2nd police precinct in Khimki. And there was no way that we could prove that we were in the right. Honestly speaking, I just feel sorry for these people who are now in a pretrial detention facility. And I think that the demonstration on the 19th is important for every person who has clashed head on with the lawlessness of the authorities. We must demand that this case is reviewed normally and publicly.

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Thanks to antifa.ru for providing a transcript of the Russian text of this video.

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The Khimki Hostages Need Your Solidarity!

http://khimkibattle.org

In July and August 2010, as forest fires blazed all across Russia, the French construction company Vinci and its Russian partners were engaged in destroying a forest near the Moscow suburb of Khimki. The town administration backed their actions using a combination of lawlessness and direct violence: forest defenders were attacked both by local police and extreme right-wing thugs. The coordinated actions of grassroots activists have put a temporary halt to construction of a planned Moscow-Petersburg toll highway through the Khimki Forest. However, two active defenders of the forest, antifascists Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, remain in police custody on fabricated charges. In essence, they have been taken hostage by local authorities and police officials. If they are tried and convicted they could face seven years in prison. Meanwhile, police and other law enforcement agencies continue their hunt against other activists, especially those with connections to the antifascist movement.

The next pre-trial detention hearing for the two young men is scheduled for late September. Join our International Days of ActionSeptember 17–20, 2010 – to demand their release. Our main slogans are Freedom for Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov! and End the Persecution of Forest Defenders and Antifascists! For more details, go to our web site.

The Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages calls on people from around the world to fax messages of protest to the Khimki municipal court and Russian law enforcement agencies on September 20, 2010. You can find the details here.

What You Can Do Right Now

1. Repost our appeal and your own opinion about the case on your web site or blog. Forward these texts to friends, comrades, and anyone else you think might want to participate in this solidarity campaign.

2. Write e-mails to international organizations, Russian government officials and the development companies involved in the toll highway project: they all either are in a position to help secure release of the Khimki hostages or bear indirect responsibility for their continued imprisonment. Please take twenty minutes right now to send your letters and petitions to the organizations listed here, as well as to inform your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Your help might prove decisive in saving the Khimki Forest and its defenders.

3. If you are prepared to help the persecuted activists in other ways or would like to share advice on how to deal with European and Russian official organizations and companies, please write to us at:

info@khimkibattle.orgcollaboration@19jan.ru,19jan.solidar@gmail.comecmoru@rambler.ru

How Things Are Done in Khimki

Since the launch of the project to build a toll highway through the Khimki Forest, the Khimki town administration has become infamous for its gangster-like methods of “working” with local residents. Over the past three years, forest defenders have suffered numerous arrests and other forms of harassment by local police, as well as physical attacks carried out by “anonymous” hired thugs, including neo-Nazis. These actions by the Khimki administration and its partners are explained by the significant commercial interest they have in seeing that the highway construction project is completed. The planned highway would be the first such toll road in Russia, connecting the country’s two largest cities, Moscow and Petersburg. Along with the highway itself, the project includes plans for the construction of service and maintenance infrastructure, hotels, and residential buildings. The project thus promises enormous profits if realized, and that is why its backers are so keen to ignore both the law and the value of individual human lives. The lives and freedom of two forest defenders and antifascists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, are today threatened. They were arrested and falsely charged in revenge for a spontaneous demonstration that took place outside the Khimki town hall on July 28, 2010. Practically speaking, Alexei and Maxim have been taken hostage. At the same time, the Russian police and other law enforcement agencies have unleashed an unprecedented campaign of persecution directed against all antifascists. In violation of all legal norms, these activists have been forcibly detained and taken in for questioning by police, who have used physical and other methods of coercion to obtain the testimony they want to hear. The police have also conducted illegal searches of antifascists’ apartments. Under such circumstances there can be no doubt that the Khimki administration and the police intend to take new hostages who will join Gaskarov and Solopov behind bars.

The entire story of the Moscow-Petersburg toll road project has been punctuated by threats and dozens of physical attacks against activists, by the arsons of their homes and cars. Mikhail Beketov, editor of a Khimki opposition newspaper, was severely beaten and left for dead. He miraculously survived but he is now confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. The editor of another local newspaper, Anatoly Yurov, has been beaten three times, suffering various injuries, including a brain concussion. The last time he was attacked, he suffered nine knife wounds. Newspaper layout editor Sergei Protazanov was cruelly beaten by persons unknown and died from his injuries the following day. After receiving numerous threats, local civil rights activist Albert Pchelintsev was kidnapped; his kidnappers shot him in the mouth with a pneumatic pistol and threw him out on the street. Albert survived this attacked, but his vocal chords were severely damaged. Pensioner and forest defender Alexander Parfyonov was attacked outside his home; his assailants wounded his arm. Two attempts have been made on the life of activist Vitaly Kapyttsev: an unknown assailant attempted to stab him to death outside Kapyttsev’s home at night, and later a bomb was thrown through his window. Activist Yevgenia Chirikova has been a constant target of crude harassment on the part of the police and attacks by unknown assailants: a person unknown tried to run her over with a car, and her husband has been physically attacked. There has been no official reaction to most of these attacks and in many cases the police have not even opened investigations. Local journalists and activists know of many other instances in which the Khimki administration has broken the law, as well as of its connections with the criminal world and neo-Nazis.

When developers began destroying the Khimki Forest in July 2010, environmentalists, antifascists, and political activists joined local residents in defending it. Although they did not have an official permit to clear-cut the forest, the loggers were guarded by regular police, private security guards, and neo-Nazis. On several occasions, groups of “persons unknown” wearing shirts and other clothing with neo-Nazi logos attacked forest defenders while police stood by. After these incidents, OMON riot police arrested the activists, not the hired thugs. The logging of the forest continued despite numerous petitions, pickets, and demonstrations. That is why antifascists and anarchists carried out a spontaneous demonstration in late June outside the Khimki town hall. During the demonstration, a few windows were broken, and demonstrators spray-painted the slogan “Save the Russian forest!” in two places on the wall. This action was widely reported and discussed in the press. None of the demonstrators was arrested during or immediately after the action in Khimki. But the following day two well-known social activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov, spokesmen for the antifascist movement, were detained by police. Their arrests involved numerous violations of procedure and law: their arrest protocols were drawn up to report that they had been arrested “at the scene of the crime” and absurd “eyewitness” testimony was fabricated against them. Since then, the police have been forcing activists detained for questioning to testify against Gaskarov and Solopov. In the meantime, in the face of growing protests against the destruction of the Khimki Forest, the Russian authorities have conceded that the planned route for the toll highway needs to be reviewed. And yet Gaskarov and Solopov remain hostages of the highway, of the Khimki administration and police officials. They remain in prison as the police and prosecutors fabricate a case against them. If they are brought to trial and convicted as charged, they could face up to seven years in prison.

Find more information in the Prehistory of the Case of the Khimki Hostages

The Situation Is Critical

The safety and liberty of members of the antifascist movement are threatened. They very much need your solidarity. In late September, the Khimki court will again decide whether to keep Alexei and Maxim in prison or release them. We ask you to participate in our campaign to force the Russian authorities to release them and end its witch-hunt against forest defenders and antifascists.

On September 17–20, 2010, protest actions will take place outside of official Russian establishments all over the world. Rallies and other expressions of solidarity will also take place, as well as a media blitz to publicize the situation. September 20 is the proposed day for sending protest faxes to the Khimki court, the Khimki administration, and the Moscow Region prosecutor’s office. You can find details on planned actions, fax numbers, and other updated information on our web site: http://khimkibattle.org/.

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Sign a Petition in Defense of the Khimki Forest

This petition was drafted by Ekooborona (Eco-Defense), the grassroots organization founded by Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest.

http://ecmo.ru/signs/alternative/#english

Here is the full text of the petition in English:

To President of Russia Mr. Medvedev

Dear Mr. President,

We, undersigned, ask you to review the new Moscow – St. Petersburg toll motorway placement (section 15 – 58 km) in order to minimize environmental damage to the Khimki Forest Park’s eco-system. In the preliminary Act of the Choice of Land Plot there were two options alternative to the currently chosen motorway option through the center of Khimki Forest Park. Both alternatives did not left the Forest Park completely intact, but they inflicted substantially lower damage to its eco-system than the currently chosen option. Nevertheless, the alternative options were discarded without any serious technical and economical analysis, under doubtful pretexts, without any analysis of public opinion.

Moreover, according to independent experts (including the director of Russian Scientific Institute for Transportation Mr. Mikhail Blinkin), there is an option for the road placement which almost don’t require any clearing of forests. The conclusion is based on the known plans of extension of the new Moscow – St. Petersburg motorway to the territory of Moscow (segment 0 – 15 km) within the framework of the so-called “Severnaya Rokada” project. In this project, the use of the area adjoining to Oktyabrskaya railroad is planned for the motorway construction. Such an approach allows one to build the road along a virtually direct line, within a very densely populated area, without clearing of forest parks and green zones, but also without displacement of population.

No one among the perpetrators of the project in its current state has given any plausible answer to the following question: Why the motorway is diverted to almost 10 kilometers from the direct line making a “loop” within Khimki Forest Park on the section 15 – 58 km instead of following the same way along the existing railroad as it is planned for the segment 0 – 15 km?

The option of routing the motorway along the existing railroad is mentioned in official study results by the project’s concessioner (NWCC LLC – a daughter structure of Vinci group). It is admitted that there is still no technical and economical analysis for this option. It is extremely strange, since this option seems to be an optimal one taking into account its technical and environmental features. Indeed, the motorway would be almost direct, about 10 km shorter than according to the officially adopted option via Khimki Forest Park. The road would approach densely populated zones of Khimki only within a section about 1 km in length (just after passing the Moscow – Volga Channel, on its right bank). It is better than the currently chosen option. Indeed, today it is planned, for the motorway construction, to clear a unique forest strip separating residential buildings of “Levoberezhny” district from a giant open dumping ground. The dumping ground makes environmental condition in this district extremely poor even without auxiliary negative effect of both the clearing of the forest strip, and construction of the motorway.

In case of building the new motorway along Oktyabrskaya railroad, it will subsequently cross the following objects after passing the Moscow – Volga channel:

• A small industrial zone on the right bank of the channel,

• The territories of a marketplace and of a shopping square,

• An existing automobile bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad.

Then the motorway will be confined to a long industrial zone around the railroad, almost to the very end of Khimki Town. No one of the above mentioned objects has a value compatible with the value of Khimki Forest Park. Moreover, the use of an overhead option for the construction of the road allows one to use further the shopping areas as well as industrial zones below it.

The only green zone that can be cleared for such a project is on the left bank of the Moscow-Volga channel. Its total length is about a few hundred meters – which is far better than according to the existing variant where the motorway crosses forest lands on a segment about 10 km in length.

Since the motorway’s option near Oktyabrskaya railroad is about 10 km shorter than the currently chosen option via Khimki Forest Park – its realization may become cheaper. There may appear a possibility to use remaining funds to make a tunnel where the road will be passing near residential buildings (less than 1 km in length, approximately – from the marketplace to the existing bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad). Such an option would be an ideal one from both technical and environmental points of view.

Moreover, another suitable option is completely not considered – i.e., construction of the new motorway along the existing Leningradskoe Shosse. Within Moscow (including bridge over Moscow – Volga channel) the width of the existing highway was recently enlarged up to 7 – 8 rows in each direction within the frameworks of the project “Bol’shaya Leningradka”. In Khimki, this road ends up in a “shopping street” of 3 or 4 rows in each direction. The enlargement of the existing street (or building of a parallel motorway) is impeded by adjoining shopping malls and their parking lots. It seems than in the present state of things the partial use of the shopping malls’ lands for the motorway construction would not lead to negative social consequences compatible with ones in case of building the motorway through the forest park territory. Moreover, the use of overhead option for the motorway construction would allow one to use the lands below it, for example, as parking lots.

According to the study of Transparency International – R, the choice of the existing option of the motorway placement within Khimki Forest Park can be linked to a conflict of interest in the upper levels of Russian Ministry for Transportation. It is known that the present Minister of Transportation, Mr. Levitin is, the same time, one of the chief executives of Sheremetyevo Airport, as well as of the largest commercial carrier based there – Aeroflot Company. No doubt, from the point of view of the airport the current option that allows the motorway to approach Sheremetyevo airport is an advantageous one. But this option is below any criticism from the point of view of handling the transport flow between Moscow and St.Petersburg. For example, according to the mentioned study of the project concessioner, the choice of the current option (i.e., following a “loop” within forest lands) leads to drop of the planned transport flow speed by at least 30 km/h. International expertise shows that the motorways must be as direct as possible, and exits to airports and other similar objects must be arranged as separate local roads, with no damage to overall technical ratings of motorways.

Moreover, there are well-known plans for commercial development of forest lands on both sides of the motorway by Moscow District Governor office. These plans are described in Decree 358/16 by Governor Gromov (now cancelled), as well as in the Plan for Mosow District Territory Planning (July 11, 2007) (still actual). Commercial development of adjoining forest lands is, according to experts in transportation, proven fatal for the very idea of the motorway (as it has already happened, for example, with Moscow Ring Road).

We ask you to cancel the decision about the motorway placement on the lands of Khimki Forest Park, as well as immediate stop of any works performing in connection with this option. We demand you to authorize detailed examination of all the available alternative options for the motorway placement, first of all – of the option of the motorway’s placement along Oktyabrskaya railroad. The examination should be carried out by an independent expert commission, ideally – with the participation of Russian and international experts. After this, an open public discussion must be carried out on the final choice of the motorway placement.

Please sign the petition here.

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