‘Shut it down!’ Thousands demand closure of poisonous landfill in Moscow Region (VIDEO)
Around 6,000 people took part in the rally in the center of Volokolamsk, Mayor Petr Lazarev said. The turnout was considered large given that the town, located some 130km northwest of Moscow, has a population of just 23,000.
Protesters of all ages chanted "Shut it down!" demanding the closure of the local Yadrovo waste-deposit site, which has been leaking landfill gas in recent months and was linked to illness among nearly 60 children in March. There were also calls for the resignation of acting Volokolamsk District head Andrey Vikharev, and the release of protest leader, Artyon Lyubimov, who was detained for disobeying police orders of Saturday.
"We want Yadrovo to be shut down. We want to breathe clean air. We don't want our kids and us to be sick. Living here is simply impossible due to the awful smell," one of the protesters told RT.
Another local woman, who was wearing a respirator, said: "Every day we wake up like in a gas chamber. And the worst thing is that we have nowhere to run. People are panicking. And we have little kids."
The rally was orderly and conducted in a peaceful manner, the organizers said. Activists also expressed regret that no representatives from the local administration showed up for the event to address the concerns of the people.
Earlier, there had been reports that four right-wing activists, who arrived for the protest from Moscow, were detained ahead of the rally and released from the police station after several hours.
Residents of Volokolamsk have been protesting against the poisonous landfill for several weeks now. On March 21, 57 schoolchildren in the town were treated by doctors, and at least five were hospitalized for symptoms of poisoning, including nausea, dizziness and several cases of skin rashes. Locals blamed their condition on emissions from the waste deposit.
An attempt by then-District Head Yevgeny Gavrilov to calm parents down in front of the hospital went wrong, and the official was assaulted by the crowd. He was forced to flee after being pushed several times and the hood of his coat was torn off. Gavrilov was relieved of his duties several days later.
The authorities have acknowledged the problem, declaring a state of emergency in the area and issuing personal-protection gear, including respirators and facemasks, to people living near the landfill. They also promised to evacuate small children to health resorts. Moscow Region Governor Andrey Vorobyov promised that Yadrovo would be closed by late spring or early summer. "There will be no bad smell or consequences. Moreover, the ground that we are extracting from the new site will fully serve to re-cultivate the old landfill. Our goal is to implement measures to remove the fumes as soon as possible," Vorobyov said.
But the people of Volokolamsk say the response is not enough. They accuse the authorities of trying to cover up the severity of the situation, claiming that the concentration of harmful gases in the air exceeds normal levels by a multiple of dozens, and that their health is being jeopardized. Consumer rights agency Rospotrebnadzor on Friday said that the concentration of harmful gases in the air is 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than the norm.