VORONEZH, May 13 (RIA Novosti) – Police opened a criminal case on Tuesday following an alleged brawl between environmental protesters and security guards that left some 20 people injured in Russia’s southern Voronezh Region.
Dozens of local residents and environmentalists gathered in the Novokhopersk area of the region on Monday to protest against plans to open a nickel and copper mine there, but the meeting descended into clashes between the activists and a group of men guarding the fenced-off premises.
Both sides traded accusations on Tuesday, blaming the incident on each other. The activists said that “at least 10 people sustained injuries” on their side, including broken teeth and noses and one case of serious concussion.
The anti-mine movement insists that the security guards attacked first, beating several of the activists, regardless of police officers’ attempts to stop them.
Alexander Sergeyev, head of the security firm whose guards were involved in the incident, maintained on Tuesday that the attack was prompted by the activists, saying that the majority of them were drunk, a claim denied by the leader of the environmental movement. Sergeyev said that at least 10 of his employees had been taken to hospital.
A criminal case has been opened into suspected hooliganism and causing bodily harm.
The incident is the latest episode in a year-long standoff between local residents, backed by Cossacks and environmentalists, and the management of the mining project. Opponents of the plans to launch a nickel and copper mining venture there cite fears that doing so will endanger the region’s unique environment and contaminate its agricultural land.
The rights to the region’s two nickel deposits, discovered between 1970 and 1980, were won by the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC) last year.