MOSCOW -- Environmental police in Moscow are investigating the illegal felling of at least 120 birch trees near the route of the planned Moscow-St. Petersburg highway outside of the Russian capital, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.
Two migrant workers from Tajikistan and a local businessman are being questioned in the case. Investigators say the two Tajiks were cutting the trees on the businessman's orders when police caught them.
Moscow Oblast Interior Ministry spokeswoman Marina Lazareva said the illegal activities caused almost 1 million rubles' ($35,000) worth of damage.
Officials at the Avtodor company, which is building the controversial Moscow-St. Petersburg highway through Moscow Oblast, said today they have nothing to do with the incident.
Meanwhile, there have been local media reports that some owners of trade kiosks situated near the felled birch trees planned to set up a larger trading center and a car repair shop on the site.
The leader of the Khimki Forest Defenders movement, Yevgeniya Chirikova, who has been fighting with local officials over the route of the highway, said today that the highway construction plan has caused "uncontrolled deforestation in the region."Read more in Russian here