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Thousands participate in ‘Russia is not a dump’ protests

Russian household trash piling up (Anton Barsukov RFE/RL)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets across Russia to voice anger over the environmental consequences of poorly managed landfills and household waste disposal.

The protesters gathered in some 30 regions on February 3 to take part in nationwide demonstrations called “Russia is not a dump,” organizers said.

Speaking at a rally in Moscow, opposition politician Ilya Yashin said: “I turn on the television and see all these people talking about patriotism. If you love your country so much, why are you turning it into a dump?”

On January 1, Russia’s so-called national garbage reform took effect, which tasked regions with choosing operators to collect waste. But critics have said the plan will only increase the costs of garbage collection.

Many protesters were also angry over Moscow’s plan to send its waste to surrounding and far-flung regions in an effort to solve its trash crisis.

The highest turnout of the February 3 rallies was said to be in Arkhangelsk, a northwestern region set to take in Moscow’s waste.

In Moscow, several hundred people protested in front of an administration building in Taganka district, one of the four neighborhoods where so-called ecoclusters have been built, according to The Moscow Times.

The city’s trash is to be packed in such sites before being shipped off to so-called ecotechnoparks in other regions.

Holding posters reading slogans such as “Russia is not a dump” and “I want to breathe,” the protesters called for measures to recycle waste.

In the center of the capital, individual pickets were held outside the State Duma building and on Pushkin Square.

The demonstrations follow similar protests across Russia last year.

The largest rallies occurred in the Moscow region town of Volokolamsk where dozens of children were rushed to hospitals with symptoms of gas poisoning.

Residents blamed gases leaking from a nearby landfill.