Russia's president suspended the controversial logging in the Khimki forest on Thursday. "Given such a number of appeals, I have made a decision to instruct the government to suspend the implementation of its resolution to construct the motorway and to carry out additional public and expert discussions" stated Medvedev in its blog. The party of Putin has disavowed the project supported by the premier and asked the president to stop it.
Following months of protests, arrests and violent reprisals, supporters of the forest are hopeful that they have won an important victory for the Russian people.
Evgeniya Chirikova, the leader of the movement to protect the forest told Interfax: Super! It is wonderful she told Interfax before promising to vote for United Russia after their appeals to Medvedev.
"We are celebrating victory...a victory for civil society... Even if the decision is not final, the fact itself that the president stopped the cutting down [of the forest] is a great victory," one of the activists who defended the forest, Alla Chernyshova, said.
However, while ecologists are welcoming the government's recent change of mind, mass media reports that it is too late for any measures to be taken. As much as 60 hectares have already been illegally logged - so the big part of what people are protesting against has actually been carried out. "Damage to Khimki forest has been done, but is not irreversible. A clearing has been made, but it is a narrow one. In theory trees could be planted there. It is still possible to bring everything back" said Igor Chestin, of WWF.
If the invironmentalists have won the battle, they know they well did not win the war yet. While heading off for a journey along the newly-built highway connecting the country's East and West, Vladimir Putin remarked that the new direct road between Moscow and St. Petersburg, that will put an end to lots of traffic problems, must be built anyway. He also added that there has always been much disagreement between environmentalists and the government, so the purpose of the new public discussions is a compromise.
The environmentalist hope that this compromise could save the Khimki forest, but the outcome of the public discussions is not clear yet. In particular, one of the points the environmentalists are particularly angry about is the road's width - as much as 600 meters. The normal width of a road is about 150 meters.
"The Khimki forest problem is a pure social and political issue. The government of Moscow has been pushing the project without any negotiations with local people - said Vladislav Inozemtsev, from the Institute for Post-Industrial Studies, told RT. - And this issue is not about building the road; it's about clearing so much space. The construction can be carried out without so much destruction."