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Conservationists lose fight to protect Moscow forest from road

Fierce dispute has showcased Russia's gravest social ill: the abuse of power and the dangers of trying to expose it

Source:  Copyright 2010, Guardian
Date:  December 14, 2010
Original URL: Status ONLINE

The new Moscow to St Petersburg highway will be built through an ancient forest outside the capital as planned, a top official confirmed today, despite environmentalists' outrage over the issue.

The controversy over the Khimki oak forest is not just about irreplaceable trees. The fierce dispute has showcased Russia's gravest social ill: the abuse of power and the dangers associated with trying to expose it.

Environmentalists thought they had scored a rare victory when, in August, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to the highway construction. But Sergei Ivanov, the deputy prime minister, said the original plan was back in place because the road is needed to alleviate Moscow's chronic traffic congestion and the unbearable delays getting to the city's Sheremetyevo airport.

Television reports said the last word rests with the president. There was no immediate comment by Medvedev.

"On the whole, the need to build this road is, ...

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