Since June, 1 construction works in the Khimki Forest resumed. The works were almost frozen for few months – probably, due to high level of public outrage about the project and unstable political situation in Russia.
Destruction of Khimki Forest resumed - construction workers have not only resumed removal of fertile soil from the clearing, but also destroyed about 5 – 7 more hectares of still untouched forest, enlarging thus the clearing up to about 300 meters. It clearly violated all the promises given by high-ranking Russian officials (including Mr. Medvedev) that the width of the clearing would be limited by 100 meters. Moreover, works were carried out just over a high-pressure gas pipeline, neglecting existing safety rules.
On June, 3, environmental activists started public inspections of the construction site. According to Russian legislation, they allowed to carry out public inspections of any construction activities threatening environment.
Instead of producing necessary permissions (included those needed to cut down trees or carry out works near the pipeline), few men wearing uniforms of Transstroimekhanisatsia company attacked forest defenders.
The first attack happened after midday. Vera Lavreshina, Semyon Kolobayev, Ivan Kuzmin and several other people were beaten. Police arrived to the place, but did nothing, despite the requests of forest defenders
In the evening, after 6 p.m., about ten forest defenders (half of them were women) went for another inspection of unlawful works. Because the construction workers had no permission documents once again, the environmentalists called for police to stop illegal works.
Suddenly a man in ‘Transstroymekhanizatsiya’ uniform (apparently – an officer leading the other uniformed men) began to beat severely one of the activists – Semyon Kolobayev. He stroke him several times by the fist into the face, beat lips to the blood and broke the jaw.
Comrades ran to Semyon’s rescue and pulled away the attacker, but he promptly received ‘help’ from some more 6 or 7 his colleagues. They attacked other forest defenders.
Ivan Kuzmin was knocked down to the ground, and after this the “officer” kicked him several times into the head. Evgeny Vlasenko was also beaten by several men. Other activists were knocked into the dirt, women were beaten too.
The injured activists went to the emergency station in Khimki, where results of beatings were examined. Semyon Kolobayev got a fracture of the lower jaw. Evgeny Vlasenko got a fracture of a finger with displacement. Ivan Kuzmin got a craniocerebral injury.
All three injured activists made official statements to police about the attacks against them. Despite it, police turned blind eye to their complains. Moscow District police speaker Mr. Gil’deev even announced that “the contactor will submit a lawsuit against the activists themselves” – pioneering thus a practice where police officials announce intentions of a private company before the company itself.
Since works were going on further, another group of activists visited construction site on June, 6. They found heavy machines bulldozing and excavating the forest soil few meters away from the gas pipeline – still without any permissions! A lawyer from the construction company even tried to persuade the activists that no permission needed at all.
After a discussion with activists’ lawyer Andrey Margulev the construction workers apparently admitted that documents are still needed, and even started to withdraw construction machines from the forest. It was, nevertheless, just a change in tactics – riot police was used as the last “argument”.
Six activists, included Evgenia Chirikova, Sergey Ageev, Nikolay Liaskin, Pavel Shekhtman were arrested and put in jail in Khimki. Environmental camp in Khimki Forest was literally occupied by police.
They activists are sill in jail, their belongings were taken away. No allegations were submitted, Evgenia Chirikova was even denied contact with her lawyer.
French Vinci is undoubtedly among those responsible for the arrests and violence, since its shell company NWCC LLC has got the permission for construction works on the Moscow – St. Petersburg project (#03-1/125) on September 1, 2011. According to media (http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/24605468.html) Vinci’s NWCC LLC has hired Transstroymekhanizatsia as a subcontractor – but they repeatedly refuse to provide any documents – perhaps, due to large amount of violations during the “construction”.
Looking like links between ‘Transstroymekhanizatsiya’ and Vinci have even deeper roots. It is well-known in Russia that ‘Transstroymekhanizatsiya’ is owned by one of the influential friends of Putin – Mr. Arkady Rotenberg (http://slon.ru/economics/13_pobednykh_tenderov_rotenberga-727861.xhtml). The same person is one of the main beneficiaries of the corrupted project of Khimki motorway. Vinci has set up a whole network of offshore companies in Cyprus, British Virgin Islands, and Lebanon, - and one of them belongs exactly to Mr. Rotenberg http://www.khimkiforest.org/documents/vinci-cover-oligarches-and-tax-havens-russias-first-road-ppp Little doubt that such connections to the top of Putin’s hierarchy can easily help to ensure assistance from police in case any conflict with activists in the modern Russia.
UPDATE: Looks like police failed to produce any serious evidence against the actvists, and four of them were released from the court immidiately. Two are still in jail in the police station.
Instead of producing any evidence to the court, police tried to blackmail activists distributing false information via police press-service that activists themselves attacked construction workers (despite it clearly contradicts police's own protocols submitted to the court). Interesting that similar tactics was already used about a year ago about another Khimki activist Mrs. Alla Chernyshova who was falsely accused in "planting a dummy bomb" at her own meeting. In both cases, Mr. Gil'deev from Moscow District police was involved in distribution of clearly false statements