A much-debated new road through a forest near Moscow will go ahead as initially planned, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced on Tuesday.
Plans for the road, which would see part of a 650-kilometer toll highway linking Moscow to St. Petersburg cut through a centuries-old oak forest near the town of Khimki, prompted an outcry earlier this year that led President Dmitry Medvedev to freeze construction in August.
He said there would be "further civic and expert consultations" before any decision was made.
"From the legal point of view, the proposed variant is absolutely justified and legal," the deputy prime minster told journalists.
Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said 500 hectares of trees will be planted to compensate for the 100 hectares that will be chopped down to make way for the road.
Ivanov said the commission could not ignore a previous decision by the Supreme Court that gave the green light for the project to go ahead.
He moved to allay environmental concerns, saying there will be no gas stations along the stretch of the road through the forest.
"We have decided against building infrastructure along the eight kilometers of the road," Ivanov said.
A mooted alternative project that would have bypassed the forest would have increased the coast of the road by 5 billion rubles ($163 million) and postponed construction until 2017, Transport Minister Igor Levitin said.
MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti)