During few last days, at least four attempts to cut down the Oak Grove of Khimki Forest were taken by Russian subsidiary of Vinci (NWCC LLC) and its partners from Avtodor state-run company. They inflicted further and severe damage to the eco-system – including destruction of hundred oaks, including more than 150-years-old trees.

The works were carried out in the part of Khimki Forest adjoining Saint-George’s spring which is extremely popular among locals. It sparked very predictable outrage, since according to the results of the public opinion polls carried out by one of the leading Russian agencies (Levada Centre) about 76% of locals oppose the project.

As usual, no documents were provided by the construction company. Instead, there were some bandit-looking men protecting the clearing – without uniform, or badges. They refused any attempts of dialogue and attacked activists, locals and journalists immediately when they tried to inspect the area, inflicting serious injuries to at least five persons (one journalist among them). This time the same tactics as in 2010 was used – police refused to even approach the site of the conflict despite multiple calls, and the bandits felt quite free to beat activists . The bandits also threatened activists claiming they were not securities: “We’re just hired to do away with you”.

Quickly, the situation got completely chaotic after more locals joined the clashes. Some more locals were hurt, including few elder women. After the clashes, Avtodor and Vinci’s NWCC LLC distributed controversial information about a “injures” of one of their staff – admitting thus that the bandits were indeed hired by them. Looks like it is the second case where the Vinci’s subsidiary company was directly involved into the violence.

After July, 21 the attempts to clear the forest stopped abruptly, so did most of the works along the clearing. Lots of mutilated trees were left on the ground, the oak grove looking like hurricane aftermaths rather than a forest or even a construction site. Nevertheless, many red-painted trees were still intact, and activists are still committed to protect them as long as possible.

The story apparently got an ugly prolongation on July, 24. The house of one of the forest activists, Mr. Pavel Shekhtman was stormed by unknown masked persons, he was captured, his belongings were taken away. Pavel was only able to telephone one of his friends to let him know he was apparently caught by police before his phone was taken away. Latter, it was found out that the official pre-text for this action was Pavel’s participations in an anti-Putin rally on May, 6 where our movement formed a “Green Column” demonstrate that Russian environmentalists oppose Putin’s course in both economics and politics . Fortunately, he was ultimately released and returned to the Khimki Forest Camp.

Movement to Defend Khimki Forest