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Russian police search office of outspoken activist

Yevgenia Chirikova.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) March 16, 2011
Russian police on Wednesday searched the office of an environmental activist who led a high-profile campaign against building a highway through a forest near Moscow, she said.

Yevgenia Chirikova told AFP that two policemen who said they came from the Volga region arrived at the Moscow office of her and her husband's engineering company on Wednesday morning and confiscated paper contracts with several companies.

She said the contracts were with electricity substations, but linked the search to her campaign to protect oak woodland outside the Moscow suburb town of Khimki.

"We understand very well why they really came. It's not the first raid on our business. As soon as we started defending the forest effectively, the raids began on our business," Chirikova said by telephone.

She said that the Moscow region police had earlier asked the bank where her company has an account to provide documents showing transactions, and that clients of her company had been summoned for questioning by police.

She linked the search to a report her campaign put on its website,, two days ago, which linked Transport Minister Igor Levitin to offshore companies involved in roadbuilding and petitioned for his sacking.

A lawyer representing Chirikova, Ilnur Sharapov, told the RAPSI legal news agency that the search related to a tax evasion charge against a firm that Chirikova's company worked for.

Chirikova's campaign against the Khimki highway gained popular support and last summer gathered a huge rally, led by rock singer Yury Shevchuk. President Dmitry Medvedev responded by freezing the project.

However the Russian government decided late last year that the project to lay the first modern highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg should go ahead, despite destroying around 100 hectares of trees.

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