Court Orders Garbage Company to Remove Illegal Buildings at Shies

A regional court in Arkhangelsk has ordered the company behind the construction of a waste landfill at Shies to remove illegally constructed buildings. Pictured here is the station building. Photo: Denis Sinjakov
A regional court in Arkhangelsk has ordered the company behind the construction of a waste landfill at Shies to remove illegally constructed buildings. This represents a partial victory for environmentalists, who have protested for 1.5 years.

The decision from the regional court in Arkhangelsk County last week, ordering the company behind the construction of a waste landfill at the disused Shies railway station to remove illegally constructed buildings, is considered a partial victory for activists and environmentalists in Russia.

Since the summer of 2018, an increasing number of Russians have protested against the construction of a waste landfill in the unspoiled woods in the marsh landscape in Northwestern Russia, on the border between Arkhangelsk and Komi counties.

Vitaly Servetnik of the environmental organization The Russian Social-Ecological Association says the court made a good decision; however, that it is far from final.

“The company will most likely appeal the decision. They have one month to do so. This means the tearing down of the buildings will be postponed. Nor does the ruling mean that the rule of law is back in Russia. The company was able to build all this even though it was illegal”, says Servetnik.

We continue, but everyone is tired.  
Ivan Ivanov, protestor
Several buildings, including this accommodation building, have been illegally constructed at Shies, according to a court ruling from an Arkhangelsk district court. The company behind the construction of the contested waste landfill has now been ordered to remove the buildings. Photo: Denis Sinjakov

The Garbage War in Northwestern Russia

Russian authorities are planning to construct a 5,000 acres waste landfill near the disused Shies train station in Northwestern Russia.

That has sparked the biggest protest wave in Russia in modern times.

The landfill is to be placed in the middle of pristine nature and is set to receive 500,000 tons of unsorted waste from Moscow every year for 20 years to come.

The Shies protests have spread to many Russian towns and cities. Shies has currently become a symbol of the Russian population’s increasing dissatisfaction with the authorities’ managing of waste.

“All decisions are political”

The conflict related to the construction of a massive landfill in Shies for waste from the Moscow region has lasted for a year and a half and has recently gained increased strength.

At the end of July 2018, local inhabitants discovered that major construction activities were taking place at and near a disused railway station. The elusive answers and lack of information led to a massive mobilization and fight against the landfill.

The construction of the landfill has sparked some of the biggest social protests since the downfall of the Soviet Union. Today, eighteen months later, the conflict is more deadlocked than ever. Shies has become a gathering place for environmentalists and activists from all over Russia. Shies has also become a symbol of increasing dissatisfaction with several social challenges.

Servetnik is confident that the court’s ruling would not have been possible if there had not been the massive protests.

“All decisions about Shies are political. Even the decision about ruling according to the law is a political decision. I am sure the ruling would not have been possible without the protest camps at Shies and all the attention this case has received”, Servetnik says.

Will appeal the decision

“The ruling is logical, and law based. However, since the company can appeal the decision, the illegal buildings are not likely to be removed anytime soon”, says another key figure in the Shies protest movement, Ivan Ivanov.

“This is the first successful court ruling in favor of the protestors. This is morally very important. This is the first state step in favor of the protestors, says Ivanov, who adds that the fight continues.

“We continue, but everyone is tired”, he says.

The online newspaper 29.ru says the company behind the construction of the buildings, Eko Teknopark, will appeal the court’s ruling. According to komionline.ru, the company’s representatives argue that the ruling is based on errors and mistakes.

High North News visited Shies in March last year. Photo: Denis Sinjakov

This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.

Newsletter

Stay on top, click here for our weekly newsletter: