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New Protest Held Against Volokolamsk Landfill Near Moscow

People protest against the Yadrovo garbage dump in Volokolamsk, near Moscow, on March 24.

VOLOKOLAMSK, Russia -- About 1,000 people have protested again in Volokolamsk, some 100 kilometers west of Moscow, demanding the closure of a landfill that has been leaking toxic gas that harmed dozens of children this week.

The protesters gathered outside the local administration headquarters, many of them wearing pink ribbons as homage to a local schoolgirl who shamed Moscow region Governor Andrei Vorobyov with a defiant gesture during a previous protest.

The March 24 protest came despite the fact that Vorobyov the previous day fired the district chief, after dozens of local children were hospitalized on March 21 due to apparently breathing gas that leaked from the Yadrovo landfill near Volokolamsk.

Vorobyov's office said that he replaced Yevgeny Gavrilov with another regional official.

Some 150 schoolchildren sought medical assistance on March 21 after they felt extremely sick following a suspected leak of noxious gas from Yadrovo.

The same day, angry residents scuffled with government officials in Volokolamsk, demanding explanations and the closure of the dump. Vorobyov was pelted with snowballs and confronted by irate residents.

Crowd Confronts Russian Governor After Children Fall Ill
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During the protest, 10-year-old Tanya Lozova, a local girl who was wearing a pink ski cap and bright jacket, was caught on cameras pointing her finger in a throat-cutting gesture at Vorobyov, who was promising furious residents that he would quickly deal with the problem.

Lozova, who instantly became an internet hero in Russia, told Dozhd TV that her gesture was meant to say "You are killing us!" She said she wanted the landfill to close so "people finally could breathe fresh air."

On March 7, Volokolamsk authorities declared a temporary state of emergency, saying the level of hydrogen sulphide in the air was recorded as 2.5 times higher and the level of nitric oxide was double usual levels because of a gas leak at the landfill.

The Yadrovo landfill was opened in 2008 and is a dumping site for garbage from Moscow and nearby regions. Local residents have been staging protests, demanding the closure of the landfill for some time.

The Moscow regional authorities said earlier on March 23 that the landfill will suspend its operations until April 14, after which the old section of the dump will be closed.

In the past, local authorities had promised to "modernize" the landfill but refused to consider closing it.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Dozhd