Activists Protest Against Destruction of Khimki Forest

Protest in defense of the Khimki Forest in Moscow, May 22, 2011. Source: Leftfront.ruAbout 250 activists gathered in Moscow on Sunday to protest the destruction of the Khimki Forest, reports.

Left Front opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov said that demonstrators called for the government to file criminal charges in response to incidents of illegal tree felling. They also demanded that government authorities sit down for negotiations on the construction of a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, currently planned to go through the forest.

Udaltsov noted that there are eleven possible alternative routes for building the highway.

Demonstrators gathered around the Griboyedov monument on Moscow’s Chistie Prudy with posters of police officers and what they said were “bandits” who have physically assaulted Khimki Forest activists.

On May 23, Russia’s Presidential Council on Human Rights held an emergency session to discuss a resolution to the ongoing conflict between environmentalists and highway construction workers in the Khimki Forest. The years-long conflict reached new levels of desperation in early May when three activists were injured in a raid by what are believed to have been private security forces hired by the company subcontracted to clear the forest. The raid came after some pieces of construction equipment were torched, allegedly by the activists.

“This is going to be an emergency session that will include representatives of every law enforcement agency and legal entity. It’s important to hear every side’s position,” said council member Kirill Kabanov.

Materials from the meeting will then be sent to President Dmitri Medvedev.

“He won’t be at the session. But the president reacts to all legal violations very seriously. Private security companies don’t have the right to beat people,” Kabanov said.

President Medvedev temporarily halted construction of the highway through the forest this past August. However, several months later Vice Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that construction would resume, citing reports by a government-organized commission.

Dozens of complaints of attacks on activists have been filed with Moscow regional police, but according to, not a single measure has been taken in response. Meanwhile, the activists claim that Khimki government officials and the local police are openly supporting the attackers.