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Environmental protests continue in Khimki and Sochi, Russia

By Sara Star     Jul 19, 2010 in Environment
Khimki - As Russia seeks to modernize, citizens are finding a stronger voice, and they have plenty to say. While environmentalists built barricades this weekend in the ancient Khimki Forest Park, in another part of the country, 4000 protesters gathered in Sochi.
Khimki protesters camped all weekend, awaiting word while Greenpeace Russia and WWF Russia help sort through the legalities of the situation. This has been an ongoing battle for three years, with one journalist beaten by a baseball bat, leaving him in a coma temporarily, and with one leg amputated.
In Sochi, industrial pollution is a concern. This is where the next Olympics will be held in 2014 - a source of personal pride for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The protesters gathered on the periphery of the central square of Tuapse, a Black Sea town of 60,000 popular with tourists, ignoring rain and the campaign to prevent the rally, which included closing the square for construction, distributing flyers with false information, closing down the town's web site, and printing a special issue of a local newspaper with appeals not to attend, residents said.
"It's the height of the summer season, and no person in their right mind would make a decision to do construction work now on the central square when Tuapse is filled with tourists," said Anna Tesheva, an activist involved with the protest.
Last year Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to fire governors in districts where mass protests had caused disruptions.
This has not stopped the Russian people from gaining support and confidence through the power of publicity. Last year, Pikalyovo protests shut down a major highway for hundreds of miles before Putin was forced to intercede. He demanded that the aluminium factory, owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska, pay the salaries that were in arrears to the tune of $1.3 million dollars. The next day, the Kremlin transferred the money to his company’s account.
In Sochi, local television and radio refused to broadcast news of the rally, opting to announce that the rally was cancelled instead. Nevertheless, news spread via internet, amid reports of a viral attack.
Both these environmental protests, come a month after the President Medvedev’s speech on the importance of the environment. View speech here.
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