Russia and the Environment


Khimki Forest
Posted by: , October 20, 2011, 6:16 pm
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Geography

Located in the Moscow Oblast, as part of the “Green Belt” surrounding the city (an area of protected forest).  It contains a river, and neighbors a town of the

same name.  Primarily birch, it encompasses land between the cities of Khimki, Dolgoprudny, Starbeevo, the Klyazma River and the Mezhdunarodnom Highway- totaling around 10 square kilometers.  It is located near the Leningrad Highway, Sheremetyevo International Airport, as well as a large industrial zone and landfill.  The forest is part of a conservation zone in the Moscow Oblast. [1] The Khimki forest has historically been protected under Forest Code- it is not zoned for business or building as it belongs to a specific category of protected forests.  It is also the only forest park north of Moscow in an area of dense industry.  [4]

Khimki forest

Flora and Fauna

It is a mixed forest including linden, pine, spruce, and larch.  The forest includes old growth groves.  It is rich as well in flowering herbs, mushrooms, and berries.  The wildlife includes ducks, kestrels, herons, foxes, deer, boar, hedgehogs, squirrels, and elk.  The forest contains a variety of threatened plant species.

Moscow-St.Petersburg Highway

The project provided that the toll expressway would pass directly through Khimki forest park.  The width of the area allocated for road construction encompasses 400-600 m.  In addition to the roads, transport infrastructure facilities and capital construction buildings were planned for placement on the territory of Khimki forest park.  This highway runs right through the entire forest, cutting it into two parts, which according to residents of the Moscow region, would immediately destroy the entire forest ecosystem and make the forest unsuitable to support large animals.

Residents of Khimki, Moscow, and other cities have launched a massive campaign to protect the forest.  Today, more than 12 thousand signatures were collected against the destruction of Khimki forest, protests have been held in Khimki and Moscow, an incredible amount of letters have been written to various authorities, and an Internet site about Khimki forest has been created (www.ecmo.ru). [1]

It has been alleged that Arkady Rotenberg, the director of the board developing the land is a close friend of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  As of November 3, 2011 the minister’s cabinet has pledged 12 billion rubles to compensate for reforestation.  Construction has begun and been halted repeatedly due to public outcry.

Timeline

2004:  The president of the Russian Federation made the decision to build the Moscow- Saint Petersburg high-speed toll highway.  The new road was to become a secondary route for the most busy traffic zone on the M-10 “Russia” federal highway.  [1]

2005-6:  Project documentation for building the first section of the road was developed.  [1]

April 28, 2006: The government of Moscow Region No. 358/16 enacted the ordinance “Regarding the dimensions of construction of the high-speed motorway Moscow-Saint Petersburg and the development of related areas of the Moscow region”.  [1]

July 31 2006: Ministry of Transport for the Russian Federation ordered continuation of construction of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg high-speed toll highway. [1]

June-July of 2007: Demonstrations held in defense of Khimki forest. [1][2]

September 5, 2007: Appeal for the protection of the forest was sent to the Administration of the town of Khimki, Administration of the MO, Administration of the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, and the Government of Moscow.  A request for verification of the legality of decisions regarding the construction of roads through the woods was sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office. [1][2]

September 4, 2007: Appeal for the protection of forests was sent with signatures to the President of the Russian Federation.  Muscovites requested that the president verify the legality of laying the highway through the forest park.  The request was forwarded for consideration from the President’s Administration to the Ministry of the Environment. [1]

October 23, 2007: The social movement for defense of Khimki forest received a response from the deputy head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, Oleg Mitvol, who recognized that the clearing of Khimki forest was illegal.  Mitvol wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s Office requesting a suspension of the decision made by the Moscow Region government, as “The legal status of the Khimki Forest Park as protected forest, prohibits its’ use.”  Dmitri Medvedev, then deputy prime minister, sent a request to “consider the appeal of the Khimki citizens, and take measures to ensure compliance with Russian laws on land use and the rights of citizens to a healthy environment” to the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Natural Resources, Ministry of Regional Development, and the Federal Service of Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Supervision. [1] [2]

November 1, 2007: Office of the President states that Vladimir Putin is personally acquainted with the issues of the forest protection, and has appointed a commission to investigate the environmental impacts of the road. [2]

November 25-26, 2007: A protest against the destruction of Khimki forest was held in Moscow.  Roughly 20 people picketed the Ministry of Transport of Russia in Lubyanka.  Among them were representatives of the initiative group “In Defense of Khimki Forest”, and activists from the Democratic Party of Russia and “Green” party.  Participants in the rally were holding posters: “No environmental catastrophe”, “Ecology under control of the citizens”, “We won’t give Khimki forest to officials”, “Russian production- European standards”. [1]

December of 2007: Deputy Chairman of the Federal Council Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Nikolai Churkin stated that Khimki forest as part of a nature reserve of the Moscow metropolitan area would not be destroyed by highway construction, and construction without the consent of residents.  “No single action will happen without an order from the authorities, and the authorities will not take any action without holding public hearings,” said Churkin.  He stressed that in this situation “everything will be decided by the people.” [1]

February 26, 2008: Hearing was held in the Moscow Taganskii Court regarding the legality of the decision to clear the forest, and on the construction of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll highway through Khimki forest.  It came to light, that the project was undersigned by the mayor of Khimki Strelchenko under gross violations- without a public hearing and in secret from the citizens. [1]

March 14, 2008: All applications in Tagansky Court of the plaintiffs rejected by the court. [2]

March 28, 2008: the Ministry of Transport held a subsequent campaign against the felling of Khimki forest. [1]

May 2008: Representatives of the international environmentalist organization “Greenpeace” addressed the Moscow region inter-district environmental prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Natural resources with a demand to stop felling of Khimki forest and verify the legality of the lease of land in the forest.  Environmentalists believed that clear-cutting near the village of Vashutino, near Gardening Association “Istok-2”, is being conducted illegally.  After environmentalists’ entreaties to the prosecutor environmental police came to the place, and the logging was halted on the orders of Assistant Attorney Kirill Govorov.  Environmentalists appealed to law enforcement with the request to verify the legality of the lease of wide forest areas near Khimki villages Ivakino, Starbeevo, and Vashutino. [1]

May 27, 2008: Residents of the city district of Khimki filed three appeals to the Presidential Envoy to the Central Federal District Georgii Poltavchenko, with the request to protect Khimki forest from destruction.  In the appeals, they demanded a resolution to abolish the decision reached by the Governance of the Moscow Region, and proposed that other available options for the route be considered.  Environmentalists requested for Poltavchenko to monitor the referral of the appeals concerning the facts of illegal felling in Khimki forest for construction, “lost” borders of the forest, and the renting of land to tens of one-day firms to the Prime Minister, the procurator of the Interdistrict Environmental Prosecutor of the Moscow Region, and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.  Furthermore, environmentalists consider it necessary to give the forest the status of a specially protected natural area. [1]

June 19, 2008: The Public Environmental Organization “Green Patrol” and Russian ecological “Green” party in cooperation with Moscow area environmental activists established a tent encampment on the border of the Moscow region of Khimki forest to protest its clearing.  The camp organizers reported that they appealed to Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, requesting an investigation of the situation and the cancellation of the lease of 15 hectares of Khimki forest.  In their address, environmentalists demanded that the disappearance of documents regarding the status and borders of Khimki forest territory be explained, and that clear boundaries of the forest be established according to satellite images. [1]

June 30, 2008: Demonstration “Against Himchane Vinci”, directed against the construction company participating in the clearing is held in the center of Moscow.  The Russian Transport Ministry publishes the official announcement that the Governor Gromov has reversed decision No. 358/16, stating “the transport infrastructure and other facilities” will encompass a width of 3000 m in each direction of the projected road. [2]

July 16, 2008: Deputies of the Moscow City Duma adopted an appeal to the Russian government, in which they state that they consider the building of Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll-highway through Khimki forest park to be unacceptable.  “The Moscow City Council requests that the Minister make a decision granting Khimki forest park status as a specially protected natural area, and to revise the construction of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg high-speed toll highway so that it does not pass through the territory of Khimki forest park,” reads the statement.  The Moscow City Duma recognizes the necessity for a new generation motorway between the two largest economic centers of Russia, however considers that “In dealing with this task the forest conservation zone of Moscow should not be harmed”, states the appeal. [1]

October 2008: Oleg Mitvol, head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage and Moscow City Duma deputy Sergei Mitrokhin took part in a rally of Khimki forest defenders in Pushkin Square. [1]

July 25,2008: Albert Pchelintsev, head of the foundation “Against Corruption, Fraud, and Dishonesty” was beaten and shot in the mouth by an unknown assailant. [2]

November 13, 2008: Moscow journalist and environmentalist Mikhail Beketov, editor of “Khimki Pravda” was attacked in the Khimki district of Starobeevo.  The journalist was taken from his apartment by emergency services to Khimki hospital with a closed head injury, concussion, broken leg, and multiple bruises.  Mitvol believed the attack to be tied on Beketov’s attempts to protect Khimki forest. [1]

July 31, 2008:  Greenpeace appeals for European construction companies Vinci and Eurovia to be blacklisted as violators of environmental law, and civil rights. [2]

August 21, 2009: The World Wildlife Fund becomes involved with the protection of Khimki forest, appealing to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, companies Vinci and Eurovia, and the president and prime minister of Russia requesting that the drafts be revised to preserve Khimki forest. [2]

September 27, 2009: Activists from the Movement to Defend Khimki Forest, Greenpeace, WWF, Yabloko party, and the Communist Party of Russia carried out “Plant a Forest”; planting 100 trees at Starbeevo in Khimki forest along the proposed route. [2]

June 17-20, 2011: ”Antiseliger” (a forum for social and environmental activism) was held in the forest to support the Movement for Defense of Khimki Forest. [5]

July 2010: Vinci and Eurovia in collaboration by FGU “Roads of Russia” (the company hired by contracting executive LLC “Heat” began cutting of the forest without permits, and despite rulings of the Public Chamber of Russia as well as European Parliament [3]

July 27, 2010: A demonstration is held outside of the Khimki administration.  The protestors were mainly anti-fascists and anarchists.  The following day prominent anti-fascists Alexei Gaskarov, Denis Solopov, and Maxim Solopov were arrested, and became known as the “Khimki Hostages”[3]

August 26, 2010: President Medvedev releases an order to suspend all construction work, and further discussions of the project [2]

March 2, 2011: Denis Solopov detained after requesting asylum in Ukraine. [3]

April 4, 2011: Hearing on application of Denis Solopov’s extradition. [3]

November 8, 2011: Moscow anti-fascist Ihor Kharchenko to be charged under Art. 282.1 of the Criminal Code for organizing extremists. [3]

Demonstrations

 

Opposition Groups:

Ecological Defense of the Moscow Region

Greenpeace Russia

Left Front

United Russia

Movement for Defense of Khimki Forest

Khimki Pravda

Pop Culture:

Rock Musician Sergei Shnurov of Leningrad released a music video based on the controversy.

Musician Noize MC has been involved heavily in the defense of the forest.

Further Reading:

http://www.wood.ru/ru/ster12.html#12.9

http://khimkibattle.org/

http://bellona.org/articles/articles_2010/Knimki_tensions

http://bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/whats_with_khimki

http://www.politonline.ru/politika/4559.html
 http://lenta.ru/news/2010/08/26/medvedev…

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/768670

http://www.khimkiforest.org/
 http://www.antifa.ru/4705.html

http://www.russiaprofile.org/politics/a1280258580.html

http://en.rian.ru/

http://ria.ru/elements/20081114/155143871.html

http://eco.ria.ru/nature/20100204/207731123.html
 http://www.ria.ru/mosobl/20111112/486709…

 http://svpressa.ru/society/news/29683/

http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/08/22/russia.opposition.detained/index.html#fbid=C4oeuwRCdZX&wom=false

http://rt.com/politics/party-appeal-medvedev-khimki/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11101448
 http://www.mosyabloko.ru/archives/8242

 http://www.gazeta.ru/news/social/2009/04…

http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/24212711.html

http://www.grani.ru/blogs/free/entries/188996.html

http://www.mk.ru/daily/newspaper/article/2011/06/15/597675-chtobyi-v-les-nikto-ne-vlez.html
 http://finam.fm/archive-view/4304/4/

 

Works Cited

[1] “Muscovites Fight for the Preservation of Khimki Forest”

http://ria.ru/elements/20081114/155143871.html

[2] “Chronology of the Struggle” Ecooborona

http://www.ecmo.ru/Hronos/

[3] Campaign for the Release of the Khimki Hostages

http://khimkibattle.org/

[4] “Dictionary of Forest Terms”  First Lumber Portal

http://www.wood.ru/ru/ster12.html#12.9

[5] Lobzina, Alina “Welcome to the Anti-Seliger” The Moscow News

http://themoscownews.com/politics/20110602/188716447.html

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