Friday 29, June 2012

The Khimki Forest defenders's camp has yet again come under physical attack. This time, a firearms (apparently a shotgun) was used. There were 5 persons in the camp when (at about 11 pm) the first shot was heard. One of the activists, Mr. Alexander Bindyuk, recalls that “there were six shots from the opposite site of the clearing, with pauses for re-loading”. Most of the buckshot hit an iron office container and a birch-tree nearby creating noise and a flurry of falling leaves. Nevertheless, one hit Mr. Bindyuk’s elbow (fortunately, without causing any serious damage).

After the shooting, the attacker disappeared, and the police failed to arrest him/her or take any urgent measures to investigate the attack.

The activists are sure that the attack was not just a random act of hooliganism, but rather a warning to the forest defenders.

“The shots were clearly aimed at the forest defenders’ camp. Fortunately, the shooting didn’t inflict any serious damage, but it was a signal that we are under attack, and their intentions are serious” – said Evgenia Chirikova. “The situation with Mikhail Beketov (a journalist who was crippled by an attack in 2008 and had to have a leg and several fingers amputated) started off the same: the first attack just looked like a warning: his dog was killed”. In the Beketov case, the second time his car was set on fire. And the third attack was almost fatal: it left Mr. Beketov with severe injures, with no chances of making a full recovery.

It appears that the activists' recent activities are disturbing the perpetrators of the project – French company Vinci and its Russian partners (among which is Mr. Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Vladimir Putin activists’ inspection (carried out jointly with Russian MP Mr. Ilya Ponomarev) revealed that previous promises to confine the clearing to a 100-m wide strip were just a lie. Near the relic mesotrophic swamp in the forest, the clearing was enlarged to almost 300 metres – apparently to accommodate some so-called “infrastructure”. The possibility of using forest land for building parking zones, supermarkets, etc. has always been regarded as the main motivation behind the choice of the current routing of the motorway through the forest (despite the availability of better alternative options). The results of the inspection were made public, and official complaints submitted to governmental agencies responsible for protection of the environment. Yet more effective was the recent public hearing in the European Parliament on 26 June, where Vinci’s activity in Russia was strongly condemned.

Perhaps, the “warning” was aimed at stopping activists before the planned clearing of the Oak Grove just near Khimki for the same project. Interestingly, pro-project forces have started a campaign against Khimki Forest activists simultaneously. Satu Hassi, one of the MEPs who supported a tough position on Vinci, has just complained about a mass of spam e-mails about an “anarchist attack” against the Khimki administration in 2010 – a clear attempt to re-direct the allegations of violence towards the Khimki Forest defenders, despite the fact that even the Russian police has been forced to confirm officially that the Movement to Defend Khimki Forest (including Mrs. Chirikova) bears no responsibility for any violent actions.