On July 28th this year hundreds of anti-fascists and anarchists demonstrated outside the administration building in Khimki, a suburb of Moscow. They were protesting in defence of the Khimki Forest which would have portions destroyed for the new toll highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
As a result of the demonstration and the public attention generated on July 28th, the authorities reacted by arresting two well known activists, Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov. They now potentially face up to 7years for disorderly conduct despite there being no evidence as yet of their involvement.
One might ask why a bunch of anti-fascists and anarchists would be so heavily involved in a campaign to save the forest. The reasons become simple upon learning that the Khimki authorities and the subcontractor involved with the forestry project used violent tactics, hiring nationalist thugs to go and disrupt and beat up the environmentalists at their camp and protests.
Journalists who were covering the story were also illegally arrested. Editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper and critic of the Khimki administration, Mikhail Beketov was severely beaten. More alarming is the case of Sergei Protozanov who worked at a local opposition paper and was murdered six months after Beketov’s incident with similar surrounding circumstances.
Now the Centre for Extremism Prevention and the FSB have been forcibly questioning activists for their involvement with the antifascist movement. Whilst detained they have been subjected to physical coercion and their residences illegally searched. These actions are violations of both Russian and International Law.
The authorities are willing to review the proposed route of the highway now due to growing protests amounting for over 3 years, but Alexei Gaskarov and Maxim Solopov remain in police custody. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for the end September.