Russian highway protestors target French company

3rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russians demonstrated outside Moscow's French cultural centre on Tuesday to protest against the construction of a highway through a forest that is being part-financed by a French company.

"Napoleon burnt Moscow but he has not felled the trees," one banner said, brandished by some 20 people gathered in front of the centre to protest the project that is set to destroy part of Khimki forest.

The protestors were from opposition movements including the Left Front and Solidarnost, according to the Moscow Echo radio station.

"Do not touch the Russian forest," another banner read, and "Today Khimki, tomorrow Boulogne", in reference to the Boulogne forest in Paris.

The French Vinci Group announced on April 27 that it had agreed a deal with the Russian development bank and the Sberbank to finance the building of a section of the highway running between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

On Monday during another demonstration against the scheme in a Moscow suburb, police arrested the leader of Russia's opposition Yabloko party and the leader of the Left Front, along with several others.

Last week another protest against the same project descended into violence as hundreds of youths threw smoke bombs and smashed windows of a municipal building.

A local movement has been fighting for three years against the destruction of Khimki forest and at the end of July wrote to the chief executive of Vinci, Xavier Huillard, requesting the company pull out of the project.

The construction would be Russia's first toll highway.

© 2010 AFP

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