[Marxism] The Battle for Khimki Forest: An Appeal for Help

Thomas Campbell avvakum at gmail.com
Mon Aug 2 09:01:39 MDT 2010

Dear Comrades,

I've just put up a long post on our blog about the ongoing conflict
over the Khimki Forest, just outside of Moscow:


The post contains appeals for help of various kinds and, I hope,
enough background to get up to speed about what's happening. But I'll
add a couple of remarks here to clarify a few things, because in the
past several days the story has taken an ugly, complicated turn
(although it's in fact been ugly for a long while).

Residents of Khimki found out about plans to build a Moscow-Petersburg
toll highway through the forest a few years ago. The original leader
of the movement to save the forest, Mikhail Beketov, editor of the
Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, was severely beaten in November 2008.
He miraculously survived the attack, but had one leg amputated, is
confined to a wheelchair and is unable to speak. The layout man at
another local independent newspaper (yes, the layout man), Sergei
Protozanov, died in March 2009 after being severely beaten by persons
unknown. He was pasting up a new number of the paper focusing on
"irregularities" during recent local elections. Needless to say, the
police have made no headway in solving these cases, but then there's
evidence to suggest they're not trying very hard because these
beatings were ordered by people in the local administration.

It's also worth noting that the slain leftist civil rights lawyer,
Stanislav Markelov, was Beketov's lawyer before he was gunned down,
allegedly by a neo-Nazi assassin, in January 2009.

The website of the save the forest movement has a chronology of all
events in the campaign from the spring of 2007 until May of this year.
Unfortunately, it's in Russian, but even those who don't read the
language will be able to spot all the items marked in red font: these
are acts of intimidation and violence (performed by police or hired
thugs) against activists and residents of Khimki.


This past month, the controversy went hot again (as did all of
European Russia) when a firm subcontracted to log the forest showed up
and began vigorously chopping down trees. The save the forest
movement, now lead by a young, feisty yuppie, Yevgenia Chirikova, set
up camp in the forest and began employing all the classic Greenpeace
nonviolent environmentalist techniques to stop the clear-cutting
(which should be doubly illegal a) because federal law doesn't permit
it (and so developers resorted to getting a special decree signed by
Putin to bypass the law) and b) because the loggers apparently don't
have the proper logging permits). The eco-campers have been attacked
several times by private security guards and right-wing soccer
hooligans wearing white shirts on their heads in lieu of masks. The
police have pointedly done nothing to stop these attacks or detain the
attackers. Instead, the forest defenders have themselves been detained
several times.

But last week things took a disturbing turn when a group of about four
or five hundred alleged anarchists and antifascists arrived by train
from Moscow, marched to the local administration building, and pelted
it with smoke bombs, broke windows, and wrote graffiti on it before
successfully escaping back to Moscow. I say "alleged" because I have
no way of knowing whether these people were in fact anarchists and
antifascists or were a police-directed black bloc operation. It is a
sad mark of the frustration many people here feel about the
uncontrollable corruption and criminality of high officials and their
friends in the construction business that a call-in poll on liberal
radio station Echo Moscow found that a huge majority of listeners
approved the attack.

In any case, the authorities are using the attack as an excuse to mop
up on both the real antifascist movement and the liberal-left-Green
coalition against the razing of Khimki Forest. Police immediately
detained Chirikova and the other campers the same evening. Two days
later, police in Moscow more or less kidnapped two well-known,
publicly visible antifascists and shipped them to Khimki for a closed
chamber court hearing the following day. The prosecutor apparently
couldn't explain to the judge what the two young were being charged
with, but the judge ordered that they remain in custody until the next
hearing, which is scheduled for tomorrow. And today, riot cops
attacked a group of activists and residents who were trying to meet at
a bus stop near the forest to decide what to do next. The detainees
include liberal politician Sergei Mitrokhin, Left Front leader Sergei
Udaltsov (who has played a fairly large role in the forest defense, as
he has in dozens of other confrontations with illegal and shady
development projects in Moscow itself), and Ilya Budraitskis, a member
of the Vpered Socialist Movement and an acquaintance of mine. Reports
are sketchy, but it seems the police are trying to charge the
detainees with holding an "unsanctioned" demonstration and
"disobeying" the police, which could get them 15 days in jail,
although (I hope) they'll merely be fined and released later today or

Again, there are various suggestions about how to help in our blog
post, but I think the best thing you all could do is publicize the
story on whatever venues you have available to you and publicly
express your support for the Khimki Forest defenders and the
railroaded antifascists. Any of your own suggestions for solidarity
are also very welcome.

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