Cossacks Ramp Up Pressure on [nickel] Mining Firm After Riot – (RIA Novosti – June 25, 2013)

MOSCOW, June 25 (RIA Novosti) – A representative of a Cossack organization said that a mining company whose allegedly environmentally disastrous operations incited hundreds of locals to riot in central Russia has a month to stop the project or face the consequences, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported Tuesday.

“We reserve the right to campaign against nickel exploration by any legal means,” Valery Davydov was cited as saying.
“And let them keep in mind that if they so much as insert a shovel into the ground, the entire region will explode,” he said, adding that the decision was endorsed by eight Cossack organizations.

The Cossacks, an ethno-social group in Eastern Europe known for their social conservatism and pre-revolutionary military exploits, were repressed under the Soviets for their loyalty to the tsar. Today the group is showing a revival, regaining prominence in Russian public life and sometimes performing vigilante police duties.

The 13-month-long standoff over a prospective nickel mine in the Voronezh Region exploded last weekend, when a crowd of several hundred stormed the premises of a geological exploration party and torched cars, construction trailers and drilling rigs.

No serious injuries were reported from the attack, whose participants were said by media to have limited their ire to equipment, leaving workers to flee the site. Twenty-five protesters were briefly detained, local police said.

The clashes were not the first instance of mining-related violence. Last month, 10 protesters reported injuries from private guards at the exploration site, who claimed they were defending themselves against the crowd. In February, Cossacks involved in the protests reportedly assaulted two geologists. Neither attack had any legal repercussions so far.
The Investigative Committee launched a check on mass riot charges over the weekend torching of geological equipment, but has not named any suspects as of Tuesday.

The miner, privately owned Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC), said in a statement Monday that the riots were instigated by unspecified provocateurs and cost the company “tens of millions of rubles” (hundreds of thousands of dollars).

The allegations about a deliberate provocation may have some merit because numerous media reports said the protest was backed by many activists arriving outside the Novokhopyorsk district, where the nickel mine is to be located. This includes rightwing Cossacks and other nationalists, Komsomolskaya Pravda said in a separate report.

But nickel exploration plans are also opposed by 89 percent of the district populace, who fear it will be harmful to environment and disrupt agriculture in the area, according to a poll held last fall by the Sociology Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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