The fight over the Khimki forest has been escalating ever since 2004, when a document outlining the planned route of a new (and badly needed) highway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg was published. The planned route, according the document, had the road taking a sharp turn toward the northeast as soon as it left Moscow, which would have it cutting right through the federally protected Khimki forest, one of the few pristine areas around the polluted capital.
Activists against this iteration of the highway project protested that the plan was drawn up in secret, that all decisions were made before pro forma public hearings were held, and that the highway would open up the forest for more development on both sides of the highway, effectively destroying a pristine nature preserve. (Last November, Putin changed the zoning for part of the forest from preserve to industry and transport.)
Things exploded this summer when the wood chopping started, and then, in short order, the protests started, too.
Yevgenia Chirikova, a 33 year-old former businesswoman, has become the de facto leader of the public resistance to the project. In recent days, she and her husband have noticed she was being followed.
Then, yesterday, as Chirikova came out of the Independent Press Center in the center of Moscow, with a bevy of journalists in tow, the group encountered 30 cops in black berets. They blocked the exit from the courtyard and, in front of rolling cameras, “rolled up” Chirikova, to use the Russian parlance.
Here’s what that looked like.