Moscow – St.Petersburg motorway PPP, Russian Federation
The 43-km section of the Moscow – St. Petersburg motorway near Moscow has triggered massive opposition in Russia and abroad. The section is slated to pass through Khimki Forest Park, a protected natural area with rich wildlife and of great importance to local people living in this polluted and densely populated region.
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In October 2010 at a meeting with the European Commission it was confirmed that the EIB and EBRD have both stopped preparing for participation in the project. While the EBRD has declared not to finance the motorway section, the EIB has only put their involvement on hold.
However Bankwatch remains vigilant to any change in the circumstances and continues supporting the Movement to Defend Khimki Forest that is still facing threats by Russian authorities.
In an interview he gave Bankwatch on the occasion of the EU-Russia civil society forum in Prague (March 28, 2011), Jaroslav Nikitenko from the Movement to defend Khimki forest describes the harassment and intimidation Muscovite activists have faced in their campaign to protect the Khimki forest.
The 43-km section of the Moscow – St Petersburg motorway near Moscow is expected to cost a massive EUR 1.5 billion. The motorway is to be a toll road constructed through a public-private partnership, in spite of the problems experienced with such models elsewhere, and a contract with a consortium including French construction company Vinci was signed on 27 July 2009.
The road has attracted lively opposition, as just outside Moscow, it is planned to pass through Khimki Forest Park, a protected natural area with rich wildlife including relic oak groves. It is a natural habitat for elks, boars and other wild animals, and is of great importance to local people living in this polluted and densely populated region. Among those opposing the planned variant of the road are the local Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest, the Moscow Duma, state ecological monitoring body Rosprirodnadzor, the Moscow State Department for Conservation and Natural Resources, most Russian political parties (except the ruling one), Greenpeace Russia and more than 15,000 citizens who have signed a petition to preserve Khimki Forest.
Most local people found out about the project by accident in 2007 when preliminary survey work was carried out in Khimki Forest. It sparked public outrage and mass protests, which have been met with aggressive responses. Activists have been arrested and meetings and tent camps systematically attacked. In November 2008 one of the activists, local journalist Mikhail Beketov, was brutally beaten. As a result, he became seriously disabled and is still undergoing hospital treatment.
The Movement to Defend Khimki Forest is appealing to the international financial institutions not to finance the project unless the route is changed to avoid Khimki Forest. They point out that a straighter route variant exists, alongside an existing railway line, which would most likely cost less.