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Police Target Environmental Group At Heart Of Industrial Dispute

The paper mill at the heart of the Baikal environmental dispute

The paper mill at the heart of the Baikal environmental dispute

Police in the southeastern Russian city of Irkutsk say they are investigating suspected software abuses by an environmental group at the heart of a fierce battle over the opening of a paper mill, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

On January 28, authorities confiscated 11 computers from the Irkutsk offices of the nongovernmental organization Baikal's Ecological Wave (BEV). Police said they were acting on a letter from someone who accused BEV of using pirated software. After examining the confiscated hard drives, investigators concluded some of the software was being used without a license.

Meanwhile, BEV activists say they have all the necessary documentation to prove that the software installed in the organization's computers was purchased legally. They say local police have refused to inspect those documents.

BEV cochair Marina Rikhvanova told RFE/RL that her group has not received official written notification of the start of any investigation, even though a notice to that effect has been posted on the investigative department's website.

Rikhvanova said she suspects the investigation is politically motivated and the result of BEV's activities lobbying against the federal government's decision to resume production later this year at a paper mill near Lake Baikal.

The plant was shut down about 18 months ago because of concerns it was severely polluting Lake Baikal. Environmental activists say the resumption of operations threatens the unique flora and fauna of the world's largest freshwater lake and the area surrounding it.