Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic Restricts Reinforcements for Their Ranks but Shies Dump Opponents aren’t Backing Down

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 19 – The new heads of Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic have promised demonstrators opposed to the construction of a dump at Shies for Moscow trash that it won’t be built, but the demonstrators don’t believe them and aren’t leaving their encampment, at least in part also because workers building the dump haven’t gone anywhere.

            At the same time, and in contrast to earlier months when they received enormous media attention across Russia and reinforcements for their ranks arrived by train, the demonstrators have largely been ignored and pandemic restrictions have prevented anyone beyond the immediate neighborhood from coming to join them (

            Anti-dump activists say that a group of some 80 guards remains around the site. They appear in four shifts every day, are well supplied and well-paid. They keep to themselves, although their commander sometimes comes to the opposition encampment and suggests that the protesters are working for foreign enemies of Russia.

            Every Friday, a train arrives with supplies for the guards who seem to be quite well, although they sometimes are heard coughing. Whether they have the coronavirus or are simply trying to intimidate the protesters is uncertain. As for the demonstrators, none has yet come down with the virus.

            The protesters say that they don’t believe the regional heads because the project is a Moscow one and only Moscow could shut it down. At the same time, they are convinced that if the construction is really going to be ended, that will be announced closer to the gubernatorial elections in September when it would help the pro-Kremlin candidates.

            But over the next few months, the authorities are unlikely to take any dramatic steps one way or another. Stopping the construction completely would be too big a victory for the protesters; and stepping up construction almost certainly would trigger larger protests, the demonstrators say.

            The powers that be “are waiting for us to give up, but we are strong and we will cope with all this,” one of their number says.

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