In recent days, the battle to stop the destruction of the forest in the Moscow suburb of Khimki has heated up. Activists have been protesting the building of an $8 million high speed toll highway between Moscow and Petersburg. This highway would destroy beautiful forestland around Moscow. Environmentalists say the highway can bypass the old oak forest.
The flashpoint has been in the city which is called Khimki, right outside Moscow. There is a history of violence sponsored by the local authorities in this town. In the most famous case of political terrorism, in November 2008, Mikhail Beketov, outspoken editor-in-chief of the regional «Khimkinskaya Pravda» (Khimki Truth) newspaper, was savagely beaten in front of his home. The attack was clearly related to his criticism of local authorities and the highway being built. As a result of his injuries one of his legs was amputated, and head traumas he suffered during the attack have left him unable to speak. Current reports on his condition indicate that his second leg may have to be amputated.
Khimki authorities thus have a reputation for dealing brutally with anybody who dares oppose them.
Direct actions started on July 14, when the logging was to begin. Eco-activists set up an action camp in Khimki to take direct action against the deforestation. They have used blockades on the train lines leading to the logging site.
On July 23, at about 5AM, the protestors and two journalists were attacked and beaten by a gang of several dozen thugs with white T-shirts masking their faces. From all indications, this was an organized group of neofascists, wearing such symbols on their shirts. The police arrived and started arresting the activists, not the attackers, which indicated that this was an attack carried out in coordination with the police. Security guards hired by the firm carrying out the destruction also took part.
15 people were arrested at that time. Later in the day, the police arrived again, taking away dozens of people.
When some activists tried to protest in front of the White House in Moscow against this highway being built and the forest being illegally destroyed, they were also immediately arrested.
On July 28, a large group, (most say 400-500 people), marched on Khimki. A part of them (70-100 people), attacked the local administration building. This is shown on the video below.
Our friends have been illegally arrested
In the morning of July, 29 antifascist Alexei Gaskarov was called in for a conversation to the local Internal Affairs Department. From there he was passed on to Extremism Department officers and taken away in the unknown destination. Most of the regulations of the law that determines the operation policy for the police have been violated. No relatives have been informed, no notice has been served to state the fact of the arrest. That very evening antifascist Maxim Solopov has been called in for a conversation by Okhotny Ryad metro station after the “Russian News Service” radio broadcast. Maxim has come to the meeting spot but no conversation has taken place. He was handed into a car and brought to Khimki. At night flats of Gaskarov and Solopov have been searched. Alexei Gaskarov's flat was searched with no warrant and due papers being provided, without assets being listed and with no attesting witness.
We clearly understand why this were Alexei and Maxim who got arrested. They are well known in public and are taking responsibility for being publicly open. They never concealed their views, appeared both in press and on the radio. They got arrested being the only antifascists well known to the police. Now the police is under pressure from the administration of the president, that’s why at least someone needed to be arrested.
As Alexei’s and Maxim’s faces are known to the police and mass media this would have been too stupid of them to take part in violent actions.
We clearly understand that to ask for the guys to be released is to cry for the moon no matter how hard we long for it. We appeal for the legitimacy although this institution in our country is being defied by the guardians of law themselves. We demand that the legal procedure against our friends is not turned into demonstrative judicatory. We urge that mass media is allowed access to the procedure. We demand that your laws are being observed by yourselves.
We know that the truth is ours and we will break through.
On July, 31 the first closed judicial session took place in Khimki. Nobody was allowed in. The building was surrounded by bunches of riot police officers, water cannon trucks with also a number of ambulances and police cars around. After 48 hours of the guys being detained, the charge should have been brought against Alexei and Maxim today but they still haven't been accused and the judicial session has been postponed until Tuesday, August, 3 being qualified by the judge as a “tough” one.
It has also come to light that their protocols state that the guys were detained on the crime site which contravenes to the original police statement which read that no one was arrested after the incident. This gives evidence that the cases are being invented.
We’re disturbed by the way the procedures are progressing and would appreciate any international support.
Now the funds are being raised for the lawyers and your help would be critical here.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Forest Chopped Down, Khimki Smashed Up"
Yesterday [July 28, 2010] more than 500 anarchists and activists from the Antifa movement smashed up the town hall building of the town of Khimki as a sign of protest against the chopping down of the Khimki forest. People in masks broke windows with stones, wrote "save the Russian forest" graffiti on the walls, and threw smoke bombs at the building. The police were unable to detain a single participant in the action. Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko declared that this was "the first I have heard" about the pogrom in his own town hall.
The anarchists and Antifa started to prepare for the action two days ago. A flyer announcing a concert on Trubnaya Square to defend the Khimki forest appeared on their sites. At 6.30 pm around 400 people arrived at Trubnaya Square, according to the estimate of Kommersant's correspondent.
"I hope no one has come here for the music," a short young man in a mask who had climbed up into an elevated position yelled. "While we are here there is some sort of hell going on in Khimki - the fascists are chopping down the forest, and they are being led by a bishop (people in masks attacked the defenders of Khimki forest, Kommersant reported on July 24, and many had tattoos of Nazi symbols; Aleksandr Semchenko, head of the Teplotechnik company, which is doing the chopping, is a priest from the Evangelical Baptist Christian church - Kommersant). So, we are going there!"
Those who had gathered moved in the direction of Petrovsko-Razumovskoe. They were joined by around a hundred anarchists and, getting on a commuter train, they all went to Khimki. On the way they discussed a possible encounter with participants in a rally in support of the construction of the high-speed Moscow-St Petersburg motorway. It was held yesterday afternoon by approximately 40 people, some in Young Guard of United Russia T-shirts.
"What are the opponents made up of?" a young man with a baseball bat asked his friend.
"Approximately 50 fascists and United Russia - the whole town," he answered.
"Then we will cope," the "bat" responded.
In Khimki they formed a column on the platform. It set out with the banner "we will clear the forest of fascist occupation, 1941-2010." The procession reached the town hall building in about five minutes, chanting "we will protect the Russian forest!" and "Dismiss Strelchenko (Vladimir Strelchenko, head of the Khimki administration - Kommersant)!" Protective ice hockey masks appeared on many, and also masks depicting the heroes of horror movies.
Seeing the crowd, the security guards fled their post at the entrance to the building. An Antifa activist signalled the presence of the indignant crowd by hitting the door several times with an axe. Stones were thrown at the windows and air pistols were fired. Some panes were smashed in the first minute. To constant chanting the crowd covered all the walls in graffiti with the inscription "Khimki forest." Over 50 people got their hands on coloured smoke bombs and set them alight. The smoke was so thick that the building was concealed from the eyes. Shocked locals who were walking their dogs by the town hall filmed the incident on their cellphones.
After five minutes the crowd lined up again and went back to the station. A police car tried to stop it, but bottles and stones were thrown at it. "That is for Beketov (Mikhail Beketov, chief editor of the Khiminskaya Pravda opposition newspaper, who was badly beaten up by unknown people and became disabled - Kommersant)," one of the masked anarchists repeated, bending to pick up a new stone. Another two police Uaz vehicles were waiting for the crowd at the train station, but they also had things thrown at them, and the vehicles went away. Reinforced police details only appeared at the station 10 minutes after the participants in the protest action had left. They got to the Petrovsko-Razumovskoye station without incident and went off in different directions.
"The police officers who arrived on the spot only saw the last people running for the train and did not manage to react at all," Kommersant was told by Yevgeny Gildeyev, head of the Moscow Region Internal Affairs Directorate's Information and Public Relations Directorate, told Kommersant.
According to his account, 90 young people in black bandanas arrived from Moscow on a commuter train at around 8.15 pm and headed for the town hall building. "Everything took them around three to four minutes. The action was probably thought through in advance to the second," he summed up. According to him, the Khimki police immediately passed on all the information to the Moscow Main Internal Affairs Directorate. However, at the time this issue was going to press not a single person had been detained.
Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko pretended throughout yesterday evening that nothing extraordinary was happening in the town. "They attacked and set fire to the building of my administration? That is the first I have heard! That did not happen," he told Kommersant. "There was an attack on the Gorshin picture gallery," Mr Strelchenko said after some reflection. "There are some works of art displayed there - I do not know what value they have. Goodbye!" During the next conversation, during which Kommersant's correspondent asked how the participants in the action had got to the gallery, which is located on the third floor of the administration building, Mr Strelchenko for some reason said: "You have got the wrong number." He did not pick up the receiver after that.
"Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is following the development of the situation concerning the chopping down of the Khimki forest and is receiving all information linked to this conflict," Dmitry Peskov, the prime minister's press secretary, told the Kommersant FM radio station yesterday.
by Aleksander Chernykh, Andrey Kozenko, Ivan Buranov, and Sergey Mashkin.