05/10/2011, 00.00
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Police charge Khimki forest environmentalists: 25 arrests and injuries

by Nina Achmatova
The authorities want to destroy the centuries-old forest outside Moscow to make way for a highway. Police violently disperse demonstration.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The latest protest of the movement 'In defense of the Khimki forest’ resulted in injuries and arrests.  The group is becoming and even sorer thorn in the Kremlin’s side other political opposition organizations. On May 8, police cracked down on activists who were protesting against the destruction of the forest near the capital - believed to be protected-area - to make way for bulldozers to build the controversial highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg. For the authorities, the demonstration was not authorized and agents intervened, arresting 25 people, including the movement leader Yevgeniya Chirikova and Sergei Mitrokhin, leader of the liberal Yabloko party.

On her Twitter account Chirikova denounced  mistreatment: activist Oleg Prudnikov, for example, was denied medical treatment after being beaten by police who dispersed the demonstrators. "The doctors wanted to take him to the hospital - reports the woman - but the agents would not let him go." The site Grani.ru, reported that Sergei Udaltsov, leaders of the Left Front, suffered a broken rib and activist Sergei Ageyev has a head injury for the beatings.

The new highway project has raised many protests in recent years and many journalists who have followed the story have been subject to threats or physical attacks. After President Dmitri Medvedev suspended it in September, the project received the green light last December. According to ecologists, the route of the motorway could easily be changed to avoid the destruction of the forest. But behind the intention of creating a more efficient link between Moscow and the capital of the North, is huge interest in speculation on the land once it is cleared of old trees.

Those who have tried to document the story more fully were made regret it: last year, the ecologist Konstantin Fetisov was savagely beaten on leaving a police station where he was interrogated about his activities in defence of the forest, while Mikhail Beketov, former director of a local newspaper, was paralyzed after an attack suffered in 2008. The same Chirikova was threatened and subjected to attempted murder.
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