The plan to construct a section of the new Moscow-St.Petersburg motorway through the legally-protected Khimki Forest Park will destroy a rare eco-system. Dogged resistance by Khimki communities has turned this into a national, even international issue.

Sunday, 22 August, more than 2000 people gathered in Moscow's Pushkin Square to protest the building of a motorway through the protected forest.
Khimki Forest Park is unique eco-system in the area of Moscow with centuries-old oak forests, elks, boars and many species of birds. The planned Moscow-St. Petersburg motorway. This is scheduled to divide the Khimki Forest Park in half in the section from the Moscow ring road to Sheremetevo airport.
For months local ecologists have been appealing to Moscow authorities and the Kremlin to change the motorway route and save the endangered natural environment. The concert in supporting to the protest was banned by the Moscow authorities. Veteran rock musician Yury Shevchuk sang songs without a microphone. "We musicians wanted to put on a concert to defend nature, the fields, forests and Lake Baikal - he told - Khimki forest has become a symbol for everyone,"

Last May, uring a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Shevchuk openly challenged the country's authoritarian leader, saying demonstrations in Russia are broken up by "repressive" security services.

The conflict between the Moscow Oblast authorities and the Transport Ministry on the one side, and the residents of the Khimki city district and the north of Moscow on the other, involved the Prime Minister Putin, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the Moscow city government, Greenpeace, the European Parliament, the European Green Party and dozens of ecological organizations both inside Russia and beyond. In this hot environment, people have linked this issue with the attempt on the life of the journalist Mikhail Beketov in 2008.

Last July the environmentalist camp was attacked by environmentalists assault by masked men. The Police, called by the environmentalists did not intervene, but later arrested seven environmental activists and two journalists.
In early August, the protest leader, Yevgenia Chirikova, was arbitrarly arrested.

The project is planned as the first large-scale public-private partnership with the involvement of western investors - the EBRD and European Investment Bank. The intermediary link will be the North-West Investment Company, backed by the French firms Vinci and Eurovia. The project is managed by company, Avtodor, which combines the functions of a government agency and a business.

The use of forestry lands (which is against the law) is planned in order to avoid t avoid property disputes with landowners and expensive facilities such as tunnel and flyovers.

After months of protests, Greenpeace and the Russian WWF appealed to the European Green Party to drop EU participation in the project, if the scheme for the motorway to go round Khimki Forest Park is not selected, and the European Green Party, the European Parliament passed a resolution warning European investors that participation in the project would be unacceptable. Bankwatch, which monitors observance of the law in the investment activities of EU banks, began to keep close track of developments, and even the French Senate became warned the Vinci about the project.

that destroyed the environment. It is worth noting that the Russian Duma is evidently less concerned about the problem than the French Senate. Meanwhile, more than 40 ecological organizations from Russia and the CIS have made the same request to potential investors- to abandon participation in the project until the Khimki forest is safe.

For more details, see the article written by Yevgenia Chirikova, of Ecodefense


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