Activists in Moscow on Friday vowed to persist with their campaign against plans to bulldoze a highway through a radioactive waste site, despite a police crackdown and mass detentions.
The campaign started two months ago as a small grassroots effort, and made national headlines on Thursday night after riot police stormed the protesters’ makeshift command post near the site and detained more than 60 people.
On Friday, several dozen people gathered near the site once again.
“We will continue to fight. Of course, we’re not willing to give up,” activist Larisa Bodrova told reporters before the meeting.
Awareness about environmental issues has been growing in Russia over the past several years.
In a poll released in December last year by independent pollster Levada, 48 percent of Russians named environmental pollution as the No. 1 threat of the 21st century, prioritizing it over terrorism.
Environmental activism has been on the rise too. In 2018 and last year, spontaneous environmental campaigns across the country — mostly against toxic landfills operating at capacity — accounted for the biggest nonpolitical protests.
Bodrova and dozens of other activists live in residential blocks in southeast Moscow, where city authorities plan to build a multilane highway.
Part of it is supposed to go through a plot of land where at least 60,000 tonnes of nuclear waste is buried, the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing said.
Digging into this contaminated land is dangerous, as it would stir up a huge amount of radioactive dust, said Alexei Ozerov, a physicist supporting the activists.
“People will be inhaling it and [the dust] will spread quite far — 10km to 15km [around the site],” Ozerov said.
Radiation levels on the surface of the soil in the area are already several times higher than normal, said activists who regularly take measurements.
Construction work was supposed to start in early January, but the activists blocked the entrance to the contaminated area, not letting workers and trucks in. Since then, they have been camping out there around the clock, keeping warm in an old used minivan they all chipped in to buy.
“I don’t have another home, I don’t have a place I could move to,” activist and local resident Katya Maksimova told reporters last month. “Neither do other residents, so we [continue to] keep the vigil.”
In late January, Moscow officials acknowledged the problem and admitted that the area had “minor traces” of contamination. They promised to start removing the contaminated earth in the spring, but the activists continued their watch, demanding a thorough investigation into the levels of contamination first.
As the starting date for earth removal works loomed, the police turned up the pressure on the activists and tried to clear out the makeshift camp.
Their first attempt on Tuesday night to tow away the minivan and fence off the area was unsuccessful: the activists, supported by dozens of local residents, blocked the tow truck and refused to go away, despite the presence of a riot squad.
The resistance continued on Wednesday, and resulted in mass detentions on Thursday.
By Friday morning, almost all of those detained were let go. The minivan was towed away, and the area where the activists used to gather was fenced off, but the group called for a gathering nonetheless.
“Yes, it is scary,” Maksimova said, recalling clashes with the police on Thursday. “But we’re not prepared to throw in the towel.”
PASTA PUNCHLINE: Billy McLean’s spoof poking fun at misinformation on the coronavirus was meant for friends, but is being eaten up by frazzled Britons It started off as an ad-libbed joke for some friends in a soccer banter group and ended up being heard by vast numbers of Britons within hours. However, the man responsible for a joke WhatsApp audio clip that claimed the UK Ministry of Defence was about to requisition Wembley Stadium to cook the world’s biggest lasagna has said his viral success also shows the risks of believing everything that gets sent to you on the messaging service. Billy McLean, a 29-year-old Londoner who works in software sales, came forward to the Guardian to identify himself as the creator of the much-shared clip
‘AN HONORABLE TASK’: The brigade to Italy is the sixth contingent of doctors the nation has sent abroad to aid governments contending with the COVID-19 pandemic Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help fight COVID-19 at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, it said. The Caribbean nation has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution, with doctors on the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s. Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of
There are growing concerns for the health of Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who has been on hunger strike at the Fleury-Merogis Prison near Paris since she was arrested on March 10 on allegations of kidnapping her daughter in a child custody dispute. “I am very worried,” said Kenneth Feliho, her lawyer. “She is only drinking. She has not been eating for over a week and her immune system is weak.” Among those calling for the musician’ release are African stars including Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo. Damon Albarn, who performed with her in the group Africa Express, wrote: “We demand,
FATAL IDEA: The nation’s drugs regulator is curbing use of hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has promoted for its alleged potential to treat COVID-19 Australia’s drug regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat COVID-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members, despite potentially deadly side effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity — including from US President Donald Trump — about the potential of the drug to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including