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Europe

Tree-lovers turn violent in Moscow suburb

Protests against the building of a new highway turned violent Wednesday in a Moscow suburb, throwing bottles and smoke bombs at the town hall. Police arrested environmental activists, who claim they weren't involved.

A tree is marked in a forest

Protesters want to save the local forest

A demonstration in a Moscow suburb turned violent Wednesday night as 100 people threw stones and smoke bombs at the local town hall to protest against the razing of the local forest, Moscow regional police said Thursday.

Russian television reports showed the administration building in Khimki surrounded by smoke and broken glass after a permitted rally in which hundreds of people denounced plans to put a new highway through the local forest. Police say a gang of 90 unidentified suspects met up there after the rally.

"They shouted slogans in support of the Khimki forest. Shots were fired and glass bottles were thrown," Yevgeny Gildeyev, spokesman for the Moscow police, told Echo of Moscow radio.

Khimki police also said the unidentified men spray-painted "Save Russian forests" all over the building's facade.

When police arrived on the scene, no one was to be found, according to Gildeyev. "We have information that [the protesters] went to the station and left for Moscow," he said.

Activists detained

Police detained nine environmental activists who have lived in the forest in recent weeks to protest plans to raze it. The activists maintained they had played no role in the attacks, which they assert were committed by extremists.

"I am truly disappointed that extremists and provocateurs are more and more mixing themselves up with the true ecologists and genuine defenders of the Khimki forest," Russian MP Anton Belyakov from the A Just Russia party told Echo of Moscow.

"I am sure that the police will be able to see which ones are trying to destabilize the situation under cover of protecting the Khimki forest," he added.

The new Moscow-Saint Petersburg highway planned through the forest is intended to relieve chronic traffic congestion in the area. The Khimki forest has been a volatile topic since the plans were announced. A local journalist who reported on the issue was beaten and left brain-damaged in 2008.

Author: David Levitz (AP/AFP)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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