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Russian Activist Wins Major Environmental Prize, As Colleague Beaten Up


Environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova leaves a court building in Moscow on April 10.
Environmental activist Yevgenia Chirikova leaves a court building in Moscow on April 10.
A Russian opposition figure and environmental activist is to be awarded one of the world's most repected environmentalist awards, the Goldman Environmental Prize, in San Francisco.

Yevgenia Chirikova, along with six others, will be presented with a $150,000 Goldman award in a ceremony in San Francisco later on April 16.

"I will do all I can to make sure the swindlers and thieves face the biggest obstacles as they try to capture our land," Chirikova said in a video message posted on YouTube. "I'm going to spend all of this money to help all kinds of groups and initiatives that defend our land."

The announcement came as an activist in her movement was severely beaten by an unknown assailant near his home on April 16.

Aleksei Dmitriyev told RFE/RL's Russian Service he was entering his apartment block in the city of Khimki, northwest of Moscow, when he was accosted and beaten.

"I was about to call the elevator when I heard someone running. I turned around and saw a tall man. He started hitting me in the face and then knocked me down," Dmitriyev said. "When I came back to my senses, I was in a puddle of my own blood."

Dmitriyev suffered a dislocated arm, deep cuts, and a broken tooth in the beating.

Local police have launched an investigation into the beating.

Chirikova's movement was established in 2007 when she and other Khimki residents challenged a plan by local authorities to construct a major Moscow-St. Petersburg highway through previously protected Khimki forest land.

Chirikova and fellow activists launched a massive protest campaign to block the highway plan, with many members camping out in the forest year-round.

Chirikova has been arrested several times since the start of the protest, and a number of activists and journalists associated with the Khimki Forest Defenders have been beaten.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to bow to the mounting pressure of Chirikova's campaign, saying he would halt the construction of the highway pending an environmental evaluation. Plans for the highway continue, however.

The Khimki movement has gradually evolved into a major political group in Russia that opposes many of the Kremlin's domestic policies and played a key role in the protests leading up to the country's presidential election last month.

With reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS

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