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(en) First 18 days of ecological protest camp in Otradniy*, Russia

Date Thu, 21 Jul 2005 19:12:34 +0300

Camp was launched 4th of July, and it was harrassed by local
police and FSB the next day already. Officers came to camp in
daytime, when everybody except two persons were doing business
in the city, they illegally searched tents and demanded to
close the camp, claiming that "local police is about organise
a training in this ground". Eventually human rights activist from
Samara was called for legal support, and officers had to retreat due to
illegality of their claims and stubborness of activists. Eventually camp
was moved to another place, and soon police established a guarding
point next to the camp. Number of journalists visited the camp,
6th of July security chief of Remetall-C began distributing propaganda,
claiming that whole camp is paid by deputy of Samara region duma A.I. Rokkel.

10th of July participators of the camp organised first protest action
in the city with theme "Remetall, let us breath!". Participators of the
action walked around in the city with gas masks, visited shops and parks
just as usual. Then they converged at administration of the city of
Otradniy, where masks were taken away, and everybody immediately "died".
Idea was to demonstrate to inhabitants, that normal life without
gas masks will be impossible in case OOO TD Remetall-C may go on
with their business. After action, activists distributed leaflets in the

12th of July first informational picket was organised in the center of
the city. Immediately when activists unrolled banner "We want to breath",
and set up the information stand, administrators of the market place
came harrassing picketers with their security service, and called police.
Eventually administration had to admit that picket was legal, and
they left activists in peace. Some workers of "Remetall-C" also came
gathering intelligence about protests, but when activists began asking them
questions, they quickly left the place.

16th of July a general assembly of more than 100 people living in the
vicinity of Remetall-C was organised. Assembly agreed that ecological
situation in the area is miserable, that Remetall-C must inclose
informations about materials they are processing, and that their
business must be closed down. Assembly also supported
idea of founding a people's self-governing organ to handle problems of the

Workers of Yukos who has operations in the same industrial
area as Remetall-C complained about threats from Remetall-C when they had
complained about health problems. Security of Remetall-C tried to disturb
meeting without a success. Some officials from municipal sanitary inspection
were there as well, they claimed that operation of Remetall-C is completely
safe but they were ridiculized and shouted at by the people during their

18th of July, a in two different occassions a thug employed by Remetall-C
assaulted alltogether 4 participators of the camp on their way to train station.
One man from Samara, two men and one woman from Moscow were hurt.

19th of July administration of Otradniy intensificated PR campaign against
the camp. 7 persons with a TV camera came to camp, and proposed activists to
visit Remetall-C in order to organise an ecological expertise there
immediately. When activists noted that factory only works at night, and
proposed to invite experienced specialists with a laboratory equipment
during few days, visitors accused them of disinterest to really solve
the problem and of "selling out". Visitors also gave activists "open letter"
written by 14 members of regional ecological organisation "Green planet"
which accused camp of "speculation with the health of the people". This is not
the first time when officials mobilize NGO's against radical ecologists
during their greenwash PR campaigns.

21st of July administration made some new efforts in order to harrass
camp. 9 AM, environmental inspector from MUP Ekologiya Natalya Revina,
director of the house of the youth Snezhana Sokolova, and some other
people came to camp, first they crushed two tents with a car and then
began a picnic
with a garden table, announcing that they came to "relax in nature" and
"have a look at the camp". They announced that they will spend a couple
of days there. 1 PM, three women rushed to campaign headquarters in the
city, announced that they are from the city Committee for administration
of the property and that they were going to do an inspection there.
began shouting, asking on which basis radical ecologists
are working with a computer. Activists showed them rent contracts, and since
"inspection" found no other legal basis to harrass campaign, they left
the appartment.

Later today, 21st of July, first meeting is planned in the city center.
City mayor made several attempts to ban the meeting, but activists are
committed to organise it anyway.

Background of the problem

Since 2002 a workshop for processing aluminum waste has functioned in the
industrial region of the city of Otradniy, which is located 75 kilometers
from Samara. Since then local inhabitants have struggled against the
enterprise, which pollutes surrounding environment with a thick dark smoke.

Workshop is located in one of the buildings of an abandoned, ruinous
factory, and is dangerously close to apartment blocks - only 500-600
meters to closest homes. Workshop is operated by company OOO TD
"Remetall-C", and it was opened without legal permissions.

At first, workshop was working daytime, but due to continuous complaints
from workers of the neighboring enterprises and local inhabitants, working
hours were changed to evening and night.

These concerned people visited city government, they wrote letters to
Putin, to prosecutor responsible for protection of environment, to
administration of the city, to sanitary center for prevention of epidemia
and to prosecutor's office. As a result, officials organized various
checks, and discovered several violations. At first, company was ordered
to change its practices, later director of Remetall-C was fined twice,
with fines of approximately 170 and 130 dollars. Local press gave coverage
to problem.

But these checks had always a routine character, they took place in daytime
when workshop was not active.

Lately these checks have not resulted any sanctions against the company.

Recently prosecutor wrote that it has not recognized any surpassing of
limits of concentration of harmful emissions in the air, and thus there
is no basis for a criminal case. Although to every inhabitant of the
city it is obvious, that Remetall-C is emitting harmful smoke,
and although workers of the neighboring companies have developed
asthma and strange allergies, and although inhabitants of the closest
buildings may not even open their windows, officials do not recognize
any smoke.

All local inhabitants are against the company, but officials see no evil.
Workshop is running on mazut, not gas, and filter which company bought to
curb emissions is broken and is currently not in use - this according to
information from former employees of Remetall-C.

As all usual means of struggle have been exhausted, local inhabitants
contacted radical ecologists in order to organize a protest campaign.

Contacts of the protest camp:
* An antiauthoritarian anticapitalist initiative

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