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Russian Town Accuses Company Of Deforestation

ST. PETERBURG -- People in a town near St. Petersburg have accused a company of deforesting an area around a lake resort, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

People in Gromovo accuse the Svoboda Motors company of felling old pine trees in territory the company has rented near Sukhodol Lake.

Sergei Obukhov, the lawyer for a group of Gromovo citizens, told RFE/RL that Svoboda Motors had put a barbed-wire fence around the 20 hectares it rented near the lake and began cutting down the pine trees there. He said local people no longer have access to the lake, where they used to picnic and go fishing.

Obukhov said "we have filed a lawsuit against the Committee for Natural Resources of the Leningrad Oblast administration." He said that committee allowed Svoboda Motors to rent the area for "recreational development."

According to the plan, Svoboda Motors will build 20 houses, a boiler room, a parking lot, a heliport, a helicopter hangar, and other infrastructure on the territory.

Officials at the Leningrad Oblast administration refused to comment on the issue. Svoboda Motors representatives were also unavailable for comment.

Obukhov said Svoboda Motors officially calls the buildings and infrastructure it is constructing "temporary objects." Formally, all the new buildings might be removed and the forest restored after the company's 49-year lease expires.

But he added that in reality the buildings and infrastructure from such projects are usually privatized. He said Gromovo locals want to have access to the lake and its forest now.