Xenophobia masquerading as environmentalism. How politics, money, and racism turned Irkutsk against a Chinese bottling factory at Lake Baikal

The construction of a bottling facility in the Lake Baikal area has been suspended, and the project’s Chinese investors might lose their lease on land that’s now home to a half-finished factory. For the past two months, the Irkutsk region and Moscow have witnessed a sustained mass campaign against the facility, even though there are other similar enterprises already operating at Lake Baikal. The factory’s opponents include singer and cosmetic artist Sergey Zverev and television presenters Victoria Bonya and Elena Letuchaya, and there are more than 1 million signatures on a Change.org petition calling for an end to the project. Even Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has weighed in against the bottling facility. In a special report, Romb Story journalist Natalya Telegina explains how a Chinese factory became the target of a mass protest, and how this campaign benefits both local politicians and oligarch Oleg Deripaska.