French company Vinci and its Russian partners have apparently started preparation for destruction of the last “obstacle” on the way of the Moscow-St.Petersburg toll motorway – a grove with hundred-years-old oaks, and environmentalists’ winter camp which protects it.
The first attack was a wave of disinformation distributed in Russian media that Russian Academy of Science found building of the motorway through the Khimki Forest (including the Oak Grove) admissible. Later, it was discovered that an environmental analysis of the oak grove was really carried out by the Academy – but there was no conclusion about admissibility of the construction.
Then an attempt to start “negotiations” was taken. On November, 22, a representative of French Company Pur Projet (http://www.purprojet.com/fr/), Mr. Tristan Lecomte (http://www.facebook.com/tristan.lecomte1) visited unexpectedly the leader of the forest defenders, Mrs. Evgenia Chirikova. During the conversation, it was found out that his company was hired by Vinci to supervise the “environmental” aspects of the motorway project.
During a long conversation, Mr. Lecomte has re-iterated twice the statement that “it is extremely dangerous for the activists to attempt to stop the construction works in the forest”. He also proposed to Mrs. Chirikova some “financial support” for the local community. His proposal was rejected, and the next day (November, 23) showed that it is dangerous not only to stop the works, but even to attend the winter camp of the forest defenders.
Next day the winter camp was raided by the Khimki Police. Mr. Senin, Police Major from the Second Khimki Police Department, broke into the heated office container of the forest defenders. After asking activists about the aim of their presence in the forest, he grabbed an activist, Ms. Lavrioshina, and pulled her out of the container. No explanation or warning was provided.
Then the turn of another activist, Mr. Rassolov, came. This time Mr. Senin was more communicative. In front of three witnesses, he explained his action. He told that Mr. Rassolov “gets money for protection of the forest”. It was also told that Mr. Rassolov was a Jew, and, as a Jew, he must “not only leave the Khimki Forest”, but “go away from Russia to his Israel homeland”.
Finally, Mr. Senin demanded activists to leave the camp and promised to come back the next day with a truck to remove the container.
“Of course, I have no proof of any connection between these events, i.e., the visit of Mr. Lecomte and the police raid against our camp. But such a coincidence looks extremely suspect – our camp was not raided in such a way during two months. Looks like they merely try different ways to push us out of there, and when “commercial” scenario fails, “force” one begins. It is quite ridiculous to hear Mr Lecomte’s words about his genuine wish to perform an honest environmental analysis – now that most of the trees have been cut down. It would have been essential two years ago – but now it looks like a complete greenwashing” – said Mrs. Chirikova. “They are still reluctant to deploy a large-scale police attack now, before the Parliament vote in Russia, but everything can change at any moment”.
Next day, November 24, dozens of activists gathered in the camp. They constructed a barricade around the container and got ready to protect it. But Mr. Senin has not appeared, though some ununiformed officers from “Center E” (Putin’s political police) have been spotted near the camp.
Instead of Mr. Senin, there appeared… Mr. Lecomte again, now in the camp. This time he spoke to Sergey Ageev. Sergey wrote in his twitter “He tries to understand whether he can achieve an agreement with us. For his upset, he can’t”. Activists told Mr. Lecomte about environmental damage, human rights abuses and corruption in connection with the project.
So the camp still survived. Mr. Rassolov submitted a complaint to the Khimki Prosecutor Office where he considers actions of Major Senin as “unmotivated violence and threats, as well as violation of the Constitutional principles of equality of all citizens”.
Mrs Chirikova communicated her deep disappointment in the present state of affairs to the members of the Round Table between representatives of the European Union and Russian activists. She asked Mr. Filip Hamro-Drotz, the President of the EU-Russia Contact Group, to start pressure on Vinci from the side of EU.
“We see a renaissance of totalitarianism in today’s Russia. Most of the ugly things are still only verbal – but this is already very alarming. Today, we have seen a policeman who feels quite free to demonstrate publicly his hate to Jews. But you have not to be a Jew to become an “Enemy of Russia” (a favorite term of pro-Kremlin journalists and youth groups like Nashi– khimkiforest.org), it is enough to have a cause that you’re ready to defend. Today, for example, I got to know that pro-Kremlin activists started a campaign for my force deportation from Russia. And today I got a message in my Twitter, that I “will soon be hanged on a lamppost”. I am very grateful for words of condemnation of such trends from the Western officials – but it is quite difficult to conciliate it with the fact that companies like Vinci feel free to contribute to this raise of totalitarianism at the same time” – said Ms. Chirikova.
“As a Jew, I feel very vulnerable here, in that atmosphere of searching enemies inside and outside the country, even without Senin’s statement” – said another activist, Mrs. Chernyshova.
“I am well aware of the fact that pogroms were inspired from the very top of the Tsarist Russia. Then, police often took the part of the bandits instead of their victims. And now - I cannot believe that people like Senin can protect me from any kind of violence”.