On Monday ACORN International affiliates in Toronto, Buenos Aires, Prague, Tegucigalpa, and Mexico City along with other organizations acting around the world to demand along with community organizations and environmentalists in Moscow a halt to any efforts to build a highway through the protected Khimki Forest.
The Khimki Forests is one of the last protected woodlands anywhere near the vicinity of Moscow and proposals to build a wildly expensive highway through 15 kilometers of the Khimki has been a contentious debate between citizens and the Russian Federation government for years. After initially be green lit under President V. Putin, his successor President D. Medvedev, had ordered the project shelved for study given the huge opposition to the project in Moscow. The controversy has been marked by human rights violations including the police beating and crippling of a journalist opposing the project and the frequent harassment and arrest of community organizers and activists petitioning the government for caution and consultation on this project.
At the end of last year in a sudden reversal Medvedev, allowed the project to once again move forward. Vinci Construction, the global construction company, has been negotiating to undertake the project but has not yet signed a contract. The global action is intended to call attention to need to protect the Khimki Forest and to ask the Russian Government to re-examine the alternative routes for the highway that would continue to protect the environment and the community. ACORN is also calling on Vinci to walk away from the project in order to protect its own environmental, social, and human rights records which the company trumpets in its own annual report.
Actions in Toronto are focusing in Mississauga, where the corporate offices are located for Vinci in Ontario. Actions in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, are scheduled at the Russian Embassy where ACORN Honduras is asking that a message be sent to Moscow about the worldwide concern for these abuses. Actions by ACORN in Mexico City and Buenos Aires are also demanding that Vinci not sign the contract. Vinci has a controversial reputation already in the Czech Republic and ACORN-CC there is raising the issues that the same mistakes should not be made in Russia that have been made previously in the Czech Republic.