Maksim Shevchenko: ‘Even birds and animals on the Kushtay know Khabirov is behind BSC’

Who is guilty in the conflict of the hills in Bashkiria and if there is a solution

Maksim Shevchenko: ‘Even birds and animals on the Kushtay know Khabirov is behind BSC’
Photo: youtube.com

Head of Bashkiria Rady Khabirov is trying to divide the protestors with his “compromise” and refusal to meet with defenders of the Kushtau because of Bashkort organisation. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, he claimed that the governor of the region is defending the interests of Bashkir Soda Company, however, the popular activity is forcing him to make concessions. The latest days have been marked for clashes for the hill Bashkir Soda Company wants to get. Photos of the opposition between the hill defenders and Russian Guard and Private Security Enterprises’ employees, pogroms, provocation and the protestors’ arrest by the policy have ended up in the Net. After all, the environmental campaigners got thousands of protectors from across the republic and support from Russian activists, defended the Kushtau. The passions stopped running so high after Rady Khabirov arrived on the scene, he promised not to touch the hill unless the sides came to a compromise.

“The republic’s people’s high level of consciousness impeded this crime from being committed”

Mr Shevchenko, Bashkiria hosted heated events around the Kushtau last weekend. Who do you think led the situation to such clashes?

First of all, Bashkir Soda Company, its management, which is mainly offshore, led the situation to such clashes. It [BSC] wanted to start works in the Kushtau Hill and use old soda production technology without considering the opinion of the locals, the environmental situation and environmental protection requirements, the Environmental Code. This, of course, is their fault because Bashkiria has scientists who indicate that something can be done with the help of new technology, invest in them. But they don’t want to do this, they want to receive a surplus of profit using old factory machinery. This is why they are guilty of all this.

Have you seen the attacks on environmental campaigners via Bashkiria’s public mass media about “wahabists”, “extremists”, “corrupt defenders”?

I have. All this is rubbish. One could have given up on it if we didn’t know how criminal cases opened after such publications that break not only fates but also tortured bodies during interrogations.

Photo: vk.com/saveshihan
People clearly say that the company doesn’t want to modernise the production, it doesn’t want to transport limestone from fields 400-500 kilometres far, it wants to up and log one of the priceless natural landmarks in the neighbourhoods, as it is convenient for it

Why didn’t this propaganda work for the population of the republic?

Because people aren’t idiots, they know what the Kushtau is. A lot of people work in this soda company and perfectly understand what life is like and what should be done not to stop soda production (I agree the production is important, strategic) but modernise it. People clearly say that the company doesn’t want to modernise the production, it doesn’t want to transport limestone from fields 400-500 kilometres far, it wants to up and destroy one of the priceless natural landmarks in the neighbourhood, as it is convenient for it.

I think that the republic’s people’s high level of consciousness impeded this crime from being committed and made Rady Khabirov come and pretend to be an adjudicator. Though even birds and animals on the Kushtay know Khabirov is behind Bashkir Soda Company and isn’t an adjudicator.

“Khabirov had to make concessions under the pressure of protests”

Do you think that Bashkortostan leader Rady Khabirov’s Sunday appearance in front of the protestors is his personal initiative or advice from his “older mates” from the Kremlin?

It was a popular protest. Khabirov simply felt that the people’s protest would just get worse. Federal bloggers drew attention to this, entire reports in the federal mass media were published. The Kushtau topic appeared on the federal agenda. Is this what Khabirov wanted? This is why he had to make concessions under the pressure of protests — not only Bashkir (he would stop any protests in Bashkiria) but also federal protests. Though he was perhaps advised from the Kremlin as well. But the people in combination with modern communications, which allow taking any topic, any information to the federal agenda, became the main source in general.

Social media users write that Khabirov was crafty when he offered to come to a compromise on the hills. Though the Kushtau was his “compromise” instead of Mount Toratau BSC wanted to use...

The people doesn’t believe him. Why does he deserve the people’s trust? He didn’t become a governor of Bashkiria at free elections where he was chosen but because he had been going towards this position for long, and he was nominally appointed as the head of the republic. He almost immediately began with repressions of various national movements, activists, the Bashkir intelligentsia. And he has obviously always been linked with this Bashkir Soda Company — it is an open secret. Why should the people trust him? Has he deserved the people’s trust somehow? He hasn’t.

Photo: glavarb.ru
The people doesn’t believe him. Why does he deserve the people’s trust? He didn’t become a governor of Bashkiria at free elections where he was chosen but because he had been going towards this position for long, and he was nominally appointed as the head of the republic

He claimed on Monday that there would be created a coordination council to hold talks.

Might this coordination council include leaders of the environmental protest. If this doesn’t happen, there can’t be any trust. And in this situation, I can’t indicate how the talks should look like and on what conditions they must be held because I am not in Bashkiria now. But I think that the talks must include representatives of Bashkir Soda Company, representative of public power and those whom the protestors will choose and scientists, but not only those who receive grants from Khabirov’s administration (though they can also be present) but scientists who support the environmental protest. All names are known.

However, the meeting almost failed. Khabirov explained that representatives of Bashkort organisation that is recognised as extremist were among the Kushtau protestors. And he doesn’t hold talks with radicals. What is this strange act of the regional leader?

Because he initiated the ban on Bashkort. Why is this behaviour strange? He is consecutive in his repressive policy on Bashkort national public organisation that gives speeches on behalf of the Bashkir people.

He weakens the positions of the protestors, divides them trying to persuade the federal authorities that extremists organised all this. Khabirov is a sophisticated, clever person with big political experience. He shouldn’t be considered a naive dummy, far from it.

It is a person who graduated from Surkov’s school and was his right-hand man for a very long time. Previously, he worked under Murtaza Rakhimov, so it is a very experienced person. He clearly gives the federal centre a signal: like it is extremists, and it isn’t his fault. The Bashkir national movement obviously sets the pace. We shouldn’t wait for actions from our opponents who operate in our court. We should offer something that leaves one without an initiative and opportunity.

Photo: vk.com/saveshihan
I’ve never been in Sterlitamak and on the hills

“We, undoubtedly, amazed at Kushtau and Shiyes defenders”

Yury Shevchuk has been defending the hills for many years already. Late last year in Ufa, he asked Khabirov not to destroy the Kushtau. He published another video at the weekend. Why does he need it?

Firstly, Shevchuk is from Ufa. In other words, Bashkiria is his homeland. I think he knows what the hills are and what is going on. It is obviously an important place for him.

What about Maksim Galkin’s support for the hill supporters?

I think Maksim could have been there. He probably went to these beautiful places and doesn’t want them to be destroyed.

You’ve repeatedly been in Bashkiria. Have you seen those places?

I’ve never been in Sterlitamak and on the hills.

Have you ever had a chance to personally meet with Khabirov in Moscow, Ufa or Krasnogorsk?

I met with Rady Khabirov in Moscow when he worked in the Russian president’s administration. I haven’t had a chance to meet him in Ufa. I can say he is an experienced, smart, cynical, sophisticated careerist.

How strong has been the impact of this conflict on his political career?

What impact?

He has every chance to put the lid on his own greed, desire to gratify the oligarchy. Then a reasonable agreement can probably be reached, including additional investments to develop and modernise the production can be achieved, without touching the environment around Sterlitamak (for instance, the hills) but transport the feedstock from other places.

Capital seeks to cut costs for whose sake he is ready to commit any crime. And this case is illustrative. I think that Khabirov holds all cards. The question is if he can cross out those commitments he has to the Bashkir oligarchy and go by his conscience.

Photo: vk.com/saveshihan
We, undoubtedly, amazed at Kushtau and Shiyes defenders. Generally speaking human courage, social, civic opinion are becoming very popular, trendy. This is the case

Why has this problem that has been a domestic issue of the republic for a long time affected residents from other regions?

It is people’s solidarity. People are in solidarity with those who swim against the tide, who looks at the boss without fear. We are amazed at the courage of Khabarovsk citizens, many of us feel the moods of Minsk citizens despite the political nuances of all this. We, undoubtedly, amazed at Kushtau and Shiyes defenders. Generally speaking human courage, social, civic opinion are becoming very popular, trendy. This is the case.

Can the Kushtau be compared to the Shiyes?

Absolutely, the analogy suggests itself. In general I think it is time we should create a coordination centre for environmental protest and environmental movement.

By Timur Rakhmatullin
Tatarstan