Campaign to defend Khimki activists continues

This week Maxim Solopov and Alexei Gaskarov, two activists from Khimki near Moscow who have been involved in a campaign against a motorway construction project that will wreck local forest land, were released from police detention.

 That’s a short term victory, say their supporters. But a campaign in their defence continues, since they still face trial on charges of “disorderly conduct”, arising from their role in organising a day of mass civil disobedience on 28 July against the road project – which has incurred widespread local opposition.

 As their supporters point out on their website – which has plenty of English-language pages – there have been previous cases where victims of Russian police “justice” have been freed at one stage of legal proceedings but then hit with lengthy jail sentences. That’s exactly what happened to Valentin Urusov, the jailed miner whose campaign I have written about before, here

The Khimki motorway, a toll road to link Moscow and St Petersburg, is a real piece of corporate vandalism. There are perfectly good proposals to reroute it in such a way as the impact on the forest and the local community would be reduced, and the local council does not listen.

The Khimki local authority will not be winning any prizes for defending civil rights any time soon. There’s an amazingly high rate of physical attacks on people who criticise it, such as the local newspaper editor Sergei Protazanov (killed in 2009), the journalist Mikhail Beketov (severely beaten in 2008) and the campaigner Albert Pchelintsev (severely beaten in 2009).

There’s a well-coordinated international campaign to support Gaskarov and Solopov. Get involved.

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