Concert to Defend Forest Successful Despite Police, Nashi

Protest-concert in defense of Khimki Forest in Moscow, August 22, 2010. Source: LebedevApproximately 3,000 people turned out on Sunday at Moscow’s Pushkin Square for a concert and protest against the felling of the Khimki Forest, reports.

While city authorities had originally sanctioned the event, they then announced that there was no legal way to hold both a protest and a concert at the same time.

Regardless, Pushkin Square on Sunday was jam-packed with activists, environmentalists, and fans of the participating musicians.

As the Moscow Times reports:

While the three-hour rally ended peacefully, police earlier Sunday detained three prominent opposition activists who had planned to attend and blocked vans carrying the musical equipment of other musicians from the square.

Many demonstrators said they came to voice their opposition of both the deforestation in Khimki and of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“The Khimki forest is the occasion, but if oil prices drop, there will be more people to protest here,” said Vladimir Kondrashyov, a 41-year-old driver wearing a T-shirt reading, “Putin, step down.”

Despite the concert ban, Shevchuk, frontman for rock band DDT, sang his hits “Osen” (Fall) and “Rodina” (Motherland) on an acoustic guitar standing on an improvised stage on a truck, surrounded by scores of journalists, police and demonstrators, including Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Khimki forest protest movement. Shevchuk made headlines in May when he criticized Putin in a televised exchange at a charity dinner in St. Petersburg.

Many more bands and singers, including Alexander F. Sklyar, Barto, Televizor and OtZvuki Mu, were expected to perform but could not enter the square. Cars with concert equipment were barred by the police from entering the site.

The police presence was massive and included city law enforcement officers, OMON riot police, and internal military forces. More than thirty police buses lined Tverskaya Ulitsa and the square itself was entirely cordoned off. According to the Moscow Times, more about 1,500 officers had been deployed for the event. Musicians were barred from bringing any audio equipment besides megaphones onto the square.

“This undermines the idea not only of a concert, but of a rally in general,” said Mikhail Kriger, one of the event’s organizers.

Another organizer, Nikolai Lyaskin, told that motorcyclists had attempted to attack the minibuses carrying audio equipment to the protest. The masked assailants, he said, rode up to the buses and began beating their wheels with iron bars. The buses managed to escape undamaged.

The Kremlin-founded and notoriously overzealous youth movement Nashi attempted to disrupt the protest-concert by bringing three buses to Pushkin Square and asking those gathered to come to the forest to collect garbage.

“In order to defend the forest you need work gloves, trash bags, and people, not songs, rallies, or incendiary speeches,” said Nashi Commissar Maria Kislitsyna. “Whoever really cares about the forest is going to go clean it up and whoever doesn’t will stay at the concert and listen to songs in its defense.”

While noble in theory (albeit ironic, since the forest that they’re cleaning will soon no longer exist), environmental activist and protest organizer Yaroslav Nikitenko explained that the Nashi event was nothing more than a provocation. “If they actually wanted to defend the Khimki Forest, they would have done this earlier,” he said. Moreover, that Nashi got involved at all indicates that the federal authorities are becoming anxious over the sizeable movement in defense of the forest, Nikitenko added.

On Saturday, the day before the protest-concert, the state-run news channel Vesti reported that it had actually already been held. While airing a report on Nashi’s garbage-collecting event, a Vesti commentator said that “in this way, the members of the youth organization expressed their attitude towards the concert in defense of the forest that was held on Pushkin Square.” Whether the channel corrected the remark was unclear.

Photos of the protest-concert are available at by clicking here.