August 26th, 2010 is a historic date for the grassroots protest movement in Russia.
That is the day, just one year ago, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev halted construction of the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway because it would destroy the Khimki Forest, one of the nation's few protected old-growth forests.
His action was forced by a massive outcry of thousands of people who said "no" to more environmental degradation and "no" to the corruption, intimidation, violence and arrests.
Back, then a year ago, the Khimki Forest defenders were credited with sparking one of Russia's "broadest protest movements in years" and the fact that the President listened was very important. Medvedev even admitted that the selected route through Khimki happened because of corruption—where officials got to profit from the selling of valuable undeveloped forest land.
A lot has changed in the last year.
Medvedev had promised public and expert hearings on the project. Instead, without public input, he has allowed construction to begin again. Trees are being cut, and protesters in the forest are confronting bulldozers every week.
The shameful company benefiting from this corruption is Vinci, the transnational company based in France that is leading the concession to build the highway.
This company has pressured the Russian government to begin construction quickly, which has led to more violence in the forest. Vinci is complicit in human rights abuses with its involvement in this project and investigations reveal its offshore tax havens, which is why 25,000 people have signed another protest petition against Vinci and international demonstrations have been made.
Please joing us in solidarity as we work to halt construction again and save this forest. Sign the petition, and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can hold a solidarity protest on August 26th, 2011.
We will not give up.-- The Save Khimki Forest Movement
Investigations have shown rampant corruption involved in this deal, and the violence and abuses continue unabated.
Please stick to your promise: stop construction and hold a public debate, with hearings that do not take place behind closed doors.
The Russian public and many people across the world are asking you.