A Russian ballerina from the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre dressed in full costume performs scenes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake… not on stage though, but on the frozen Gulf of Finland. This is Ilmira Bagrautinova‘s way of objecting against the construction of a port in Batareinaya Bay, a popular beach about 100 km west of St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city. Bagrautinova danced in -15C and posted her videos online. As she explains to BBC Russian’s Ekaterina Venediktova, she hopes her performance will save real swans which nest in the bay.
“A unique natural and historical place where swans nest in spring, families with children rest in summer and hundreds of fishermen go out on the ice in winter … Nature in harmony with people. All of this is under threat of destruction”, Bagautdinova wrote, urging people to sign a petition calling on President Vladimir Putin to halt the beach’s development. When asked whether she was cold, she responded that it was “all for the sake of preserving a unique natural place.”
In May 2020, the Russian government leased Batareinaya Bay to the Baltic Grain Terminal for 10 years, allowing the company to build a 35 billion ruble ($470 million) production and logistics complex and grain terminal there by 2024. In January 2021, Leningrad region governor Alexander Drozdenko said there was “no need” to build a separate port for grain shipments on Batareinaya Bay.
As well as being a popular recreation spot, activists say, the bay is also part of a former wildlife protected area and is an important habitat for the survival of rare plant species as well as animals such as the gray seal and the ringed seals, waterfowl and migratory birds.