Victory or lull? Brest authorities suspend construction of hazardous plant

Battery plant in Brest, phot. Iryna Arakhouskaya / Belsat

On Friday, Anatol Lis, Chairman of Brest Regional Executive Committee, has signed an order to suspend the construction of a battery plant in the city. According to the official, the violations detected should be remedied.

For more than a year, Brest residents have been protesting against the construction and launch of the iPower battery plant in the Brest free economic zone. They fear that the facility may adversely affect the environment in the region.

The battery plant near the city has been built by a Chinese corporation. The project was commissioned by the iPower company. It is planned that the plant will have a full cycle of production of lead-acid batteries.

“This is a very serious strong step. We hope that we manage to convince the authorities justifying the need to fully stop the construction and operation of the plant and ,” human rights defender Raman Kislyak told Belsat.

In his opinion, the protesters do have a fair chance of success.

“I will bet that we will get it closed. Apart from the determination and commitment of Brest residents, there are facts that prove that this plant should not have been built near Brest, as it is contrary to a number of laws – and not just those environmental,” he said.

Although about 40,000 persons signed the petition against the construction, the city authorities remained dismissive of the petition and the project has been completed. Every Sunday people hold peaceful protest rallies; in turn, the local police detain the participants as the city authorities outlawed the protests. Until recently, people did not make speeches or chant any slogans – they just feeded pigeons or carry baloons.

In early April, a criminal case was initiated against Maisey Mazko, an active opponent of the Ipower battery factory, allegedly for possession of ammunition. Police officers stopped and searched the car in which Mr Mazko, who works as a farm manager at a monastery, was travelling. In his company car they found objects that look like cartridges, and even a briquette of an unknown substance. The police said it was explosives. Raman Kislyak, who was present at the car search, said the case was being fabricated.

In mid June, the reports appeared that the Ipower battery factory failed to open as planned. Instead of the launch at full capacity planned for 11 June, against which Brest residents had been protesting for more than a year, the plant’s leadership held a press conference for journalists. However, not all journalists were allowed to be present there. Neither local bloggers nor the film crew of Belsat were allowed in.

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