Moscow to build road through disputed forest: report

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Moscow will go through with plans to build a highway through a disputed forest, whose protection was backed by two reporters who came under brutal attack, the Vedomosti business daily reported Thursday.

The controversial road's construction in Moscow's Khimki suburb was initially put on hold by President Dmitry Medvedev, who called for a review of the contested plan.

But a final decision on the Moscow-to-Saint Petersburg highway's construction has been reached, with the announcement expected during Medvedev's talks with visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Vedomosti said.

The respected daily said France was taking part in the project through the Vinci firm, which controls half the shares of one of the Russian partners in the deal.

Russia would have had to pay France a breach-of-contract penalty equivalent to three to 3.5 billion rubles (100 to 110 million dollars) if the road had not been built, the paper cited analysts as saying.

There was no immediate comment from Kremlin.

The project has sparked furious protests that received national attention through the press.

The construction was angrily opposed by Mikhail Beketov, editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda weekly who suffered brain damage following a November 2008 attack.

The forest was also covered by Kommersant business daily reporter Oleg Kashin, who was severely beaten last month in an assault that was taped by security cameras and later televised across the nation.

That attack, which sparked renewed international concern for the state of media freedoms in Russia, prompted Medvedev to vow to protect reporters' rights.

© 2010 AFP

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