Khimki forest activist Pavel Shekhtman has disappeared after the search of his Moscow apartment, said Yevgeniya Chirikova, the leader of a movement campaigning for the preservation of the Khimki forest.

"Pavel managed to call a friend and tell him that his apartment was being searched. After that his phone was snatched out of his hand, and he no longer replied to any calls," Chirikova told Interfax on Tuesday.

Friends and activists visited Shekhtman's place and found signs of a search in his apartment, she said. Pavel was not at home.

Shekhtman is an active campaigner for the Khimki forest and was involved in most protests, Chirikova added.

The search of Shekhtman's apartment might have been carried out in connection with the torching of construction vehicles on the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway construction site in the Khimki forest, she said. The search might also have been prompted by the work of the opposition Fronda-TV studio which operated from Shekhtman's apartment, she said.

"Unidentified persons torched special construction equipment" on the 15-58 section of the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway construction site in the early hours of July 21, 2012, two state companies, Avtodor and Severo-Zapadnaya Kontsessionnaya Kompaniya, said in a joint press release a day earlier. As a result, new automotive dump trucks and a hydraulic excavator were damaged beyond repair. Total losses amount to over 50 million rubles, the companies said.

Meanwhile, forest campaigners and reporters, who were at the camp on that night, including Chirikova, told Interfax they knew nothing of the arson.

Later Chirikova called the arson a provocation. "The torching of the vehicles in the Khimki forest is a provocation aimed at smearing the Khimki forest campaigners who use only peaceful, legitimate and non-violent methods," she wrote on Twitter.

The standoff between eco-campaigners and road builders in the Khimki forest has been going on for several years now.

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