A group of masked men have trashed an administration building in Khimki outside Moscow in protest over the construction of a toll highway to run through a nearby forest, Russian business daily Kommersant said on Thursday.
More than 500 protesters approached the building late on Wednesday chanting "Let's save the Russian forest!" and started throwing rocks and smoke bombs at the windows. Afterward they covered the building with graffiti saying "Khimki forest."
Police were unable to detain anyone, as they were pelted by a hail of rocks.
A local police spokesman said the outrage had been thoroughly preplanned.
Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko said he was not aware of the incident.
"My administration building was attacked and set on fire? This is the first time I have heard about this," he told Kommersant.
A local picture gallery had been attacked, he suggested.
Plans by local authorities to cut down much of the Khimki forest in order to build a toll highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg have provoked anger among local residents and environmentalists, who say that economic interests must not outweigh environmental concerns.
Environmentalists have maintained a round-the-clock vigil at the forest since July 15, in order to stop "illegal" attempts to cut down trees.
Russia's Supreme Court has ruled that the decision to build the road does not violate the law, however the Khimki Forest Defense movement has filed a suit with the European Court in Strasbourg over the issue.
The Moscow-St. Petersburg toll highway is scheduled to be put into operation in 2015.
MOSCOW, July 29 (RIA Novosti)