Monday, March 25, 2019

Tens of Thousands of Russians in More than 50 Cities Demonstrate in Defense of Lake Baikal

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – Tens of thousands of Russians in more than 50 cities across Russia came out to defend Lake Baikal against officials who have been allowing China access not only to the waters of the lake but also to forests surrounding it, protests that follow the collection of more than a million signatures on a petition to Putin calling for Moscow to reverse course. 

            The largest Russian meetings took place in Moscow, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Nizhevartovsk, Surgut, Tomsk, Omsk and Samara. They were echoed by demonstrations abroad in Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, the US, Canada, the UAE, France and Germany, among others (, and

                What powers these protests is the near sacred status of Lake Baikal have for many Russians and their anger at the Chinese for seeking access to its waters but even more the fury many feel that their own officials and business community are selling out Russia’s patrimony for personal profit, a conviction that may make these meetings a turning point. 

            Those attitudes were reflected in the signs people carried – “Baikal is Our Motherland! The Taiga is Our Home!” “Enough Living by the Principle: We’ll Take Measures if There’s a Disaster!” and “Preserve Baikal for our Children and Descendants!” – and in the more than 10,000 additional signatures that were added to the petition in the Transbaikal alone.

            One of the organizers of the event, Aleksandr Kolotov of The Rivers without Borders” organization said that “the Russian organs of power are taking decisions without any social discussion, without any hearings, and supposedly at the requests of the toilers.” But the people are against what it and China are doing.

            The online petition calls for the creation of presidential social council to consider issues of water and forest use in the Transbaikal region and to ensure that profit is not put before environmental protection there.    

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