Some good news and some bad news here at Bankwatch today: The good news is that Russian environmentalist Evgenia Chirikova is one of this year’s six winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for environmentalism.
We’ve worked with Evgenia and the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest since September 2009, and I can without a doubt say that this prize is extremely well deserved. These people are the epitome of indefatigable.
They’ve been campaigning since 2007 to stop destruction of the Khimki Forest, just outside Moscow, by the Moscow-St. Petersburg motorway PPP project which is being carried out by French construction company Vinci. (Worth mentioning, however, is that a study has shown an opaque web of offshore companies and oligarchs behind the project.)
As if it’s not enough to run a lively campaign for five years at the same time as trying to earn a living, they’ve endured repeated harassment and arrests by the authorities.
Brutal physical attacks by unknown assailants have also left activist Konstantin Fetisov with impaired speech and memory loss and local journalist Mikhail Beketov brain damaged and with a leg and several fingers amputated. And to add insult to near-fatal injury in November 2010 a court found Beketov guilty of slander in a case brought by the Mayor of Khimki, Vladmir Strelchenko after Beketov accused him of involvement in previous attacks in which Beketov’s car was set on fire and his dog killed.
Adding to this, today’s bad news is that just this morning Khimki Forest activist Alexei Dmitriev was attacked as he left for work and severely beaten. At the time of writing he is now in hospital with concussion and multiple wounds.
In spite of all the odds, the campaign has enjoyed some significant successes. Although a great deal of the forest has been cut down, the road is not yet built, and the relic oak grove, considered the most precious part of the forest, has not yet been destroyed. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and European Investment Bank, both initially involved in the project, did not in the end go ahead with financing, as the environmental and human rights problems were not resolved when the signing of the finance contract went ahead in April 2010.
Let us hope that this prize helps to keep the wind in the Movement’s sails and that in the end victory will be forthcoming. Congratulations to Yevgenia and the rest of the Khimki Forest activists, and a speedy recovery to Alexei Dmitriev!
Here is also a video summarising Evgenia’s bravery
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