Death knell for Khimki forest

The battle for Khimki forest seems to have been lost with the controversial highway set to get the green light to slice through the green oasis. A formal announcement giving the go-ahead to the Moscow-St Petersburg toll road is expected later on Thursday when President Dmitry Medvedev meets French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Paris has raised questions over breaches of the agreement between Russia’s transport ministry and road-builders SZKK, which is owned by France’s Vinci. SZKK and Russia’s N-Trans are equal partners in the project to build the highway. N-Trans invited Arkady Rotenberg, friend of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to join the project.

Many had linked the road’s planned route through the Khimki forest with former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s personal interests in the project and the issue became a political football this summer in the run-up to Luzhkov’s sacking. At the height of the summer protests, president Medvedev intervened and called a halt to construction.

As rock musician Yuri Shevchuk led a rally of 3,000 protestors in central Moscow, and superstar Bono obliquely referred to the issue during his Moscow gig, there were even hopes for a new era of public consultation in Russian politics. Medvedev called for a review of the planned route, but today’s announcement would end any hopes.

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