Thursday, April 14, 2011

Russia: Police repression against forest activists

Evgenia Chirkova is a mom in Khimki, a town on the outskirts of Moscow. The agents showed up at her house without warning. They accused her of beating and starving her children and threatened to take her kids away, even though they later admitted they had no evidence.

Why? Because Evgenia is a leader of a courageous fight to save the Khimki forest from a league of corrupt forces, including the Russian government. She's been harassed and threatened. Some of her fellow protesters have been arrested and beaten –– one journalist was brutalized so badly that he now has to use a wheelchair. He can no longer speak.

All because they want to stop the destruction of one of the few protected old-growth forests in all of Russia -- a forest critical to the entire ecosystem around Moscow.

It's an incredible story, one that starts with a corrupt deal to build a $1 billion highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg right through the Khimki forest, even though other routes were easily available.

Tell Vinci, the French company about to begin construction, not to destroy an old-growth forest and support a corrupt system. Add your name to Evgenia's petition.

After she discovered the proposed plan, Evgenia and others started the "Save Khimki Forest" movement. In a country fed up with rampant corruption, human rights abuses and environmental degradation, their movement struck a nerve.

Last summer, thousands of people demonstrated in Moscow's center, leading to President Medvedev's unprecedented action of holding a public discussion on the proposed highway. The Associated Press has labeled their movement "Russia's broadest protest movement in years."

But now President Medvedev has said that the government won't budge. And while Evgenia and her fellow protesters risk their personal safety to keep on fighting, Vinci's bulldozers may start taking down the Khimki forest within weeks, or even days.

But Evgenia is not done fighting yet –– and neither are we. Please sign her petition to tell Vinci not to destroy the Khimki forest:

Thanks for taking action,

- Patrick and the team

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