Staunton, December 19 – Tekhnopark, the company responsible for cleaning up the damage those who began the construction of the dump near Shiyes in Arkhangelsk Oblast inflicted on the area have asked the remaining protesters to leave so the firm can get on with its work.
But activists say they won’t leave until the work is done because they do not trust either the company which has been ordered to clean up the site, the courts which have ordered it to do so, or government officials in Arkhangelsk or Moscow to live up to what they promise (7x7-journal.ru/news/2020/12/19/kompaniya-tehnopark-poprosila-ubrat-palatochnyj-lager-s-shiesa-aktivisty-otvetili-chto-ne-ujdut-do-konca-rekultivacii).
The company claims that the activists agreed on October 12 to leave once the rehabilitation started, but Anna Shekalova, one of the protesters, says she has no knowledge of any such accord. While some protesters have left, she adds, many like herself remain because they want to make sure that the site really is restored to what it was before work began.
That means, Shekalova continues, that the company must bring things back to their original state. “If you brought sand, take it away. If you excavated something, restore that.” But unfortunately, Tekhmopark, while taking money under the pretense that it planned to do that, isn’t in fact.
As a result, the protesters who have been there since the summer of 2018, will remain. There may be far fewer now than there were, although recently the number rose again to 25. But they will maintain a watching brief; and if the company doesn’t live up to its promises, hundreds more will come back to block their destructive activities.
Their protest now is about far more than blocking a trash dump. It is about expressing their lack of confidence in the powers that be, about their fears that if they ever turn away from what is going on, Moscow and its local representatives will ignore their promises, the law and court orders and simply act as they wish.
Such attitudes are far more threatening to Russian governance than the protests against the dumps. And if there is any backsliding on the cleanup, it will have consequences not only in the Russian North but across the entire country, prompting others to conclude that the powers that be can’t be trusted and showing the only way forward to ensure they behave.