Thursday, January 30, 2020

Moscow Policies Set the Stage for Leningrad Oblast to Become ‘a Second Shiyes’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – After anti-trash protests eased in Moscow oblast with the authorities promising that wastes would be sent further away from the capital, many in the Russian government comforted themselves with the fact that environmental protests were taking place mostly far from the megalopolises and thus represented less of a challenge.

            But now, Boris Livanov of the MNews portal, says, Russian policies are setting the stage for Shiyes-type protests to re-emerge in Leningrad Oblast, the region around St. Petersburg that many Russians have long used as a vacation destination (

            The reason for that conclusion, he says, lies in the fact that two investors have put ten billion rubles (150 million US dollars) into a project involving the use of a newly expanded port to export coal, something not approved by the local authorities but included in the nearly sacred “national plans” of Moscow and thus likely to go ahead regardless of protests.

            Local people and environmental activists are protesting the purchase in court as a violation of Russian anti-monopoly laws and calling attention to the impact of coal dust on the surrounding land and the Gulf of Finland where contamination will kill off many species of animal life.

            The activists have expert assessments on their side. Oblast level officials claim to have expert assessments showing something else but have not released them, and they are giving the green light to the project despite the consequences.  That has infuriated residents of the oblast and the northern capital.

            All this clearly shows, the MNews commentator continues, that “those protesting do not intend to stop and will seek a ban on construction [of the coal terminals not listed in the original plans] by all available means.” And they have been encouraged in this by the visit of Greta Thurnberg to St. Petersburg last month. 

            Moscow has been trying to quiet the situation by promising that no final decision on the coal exporting facilities has been made. But Livanov says it is highly improbable that the two Russian investors would have put so much money down “if they weren’t certain” that the coal terminals will be built.

            As a result, he concludes, the authorities are creating the conditions for “a second Shiyes” – and one certain to garner more attention because it is closer to a major city and has more international support and one that may become the driver of a new round of environmental demonstrations as the weather warms up.

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