Today, Russia’s Ecodefense, the leading anti-nuclear power organization in the country, was branded a “foreign agent” by the Russian government. Under Russian law adopted recently, non-profit organizations that fail to register as a “foreign agent” but are found to be one can be subject to large fines and dissolution of the organization. While part of the international NIRS/WISE network, Ecodefense was founded in Russia, is based in Russia, and has focused on issues affecting Russia. It has, for those reasons, refused to register as a “foreign agent,” which in Russia is tantamount to an admission that the organization is controlled from abroad and effectively is undertaking espionage activities on behalf of other nations–neither of which is true in the case of Ecodefense.
In April, GreenWorld posted a piece from Ecodefense’s Vladimir Sliviak on the growing repression in Russia and how it seemed Ecodefense was being targeted by the government. Today that piece is all too prescient.
Today, we post a press release from Ecodefense on this latest crackdown on civil society in Russia.
RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT DECLARES ECODEFENSE A “FOREIGN AGENT” FOR RESISTING CONSTRUCTION OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANT NEAR KALININGRAD
Ecodefense has never been involved in political activities and has never served any “foreign interests.” Our goal is to protect the environment and people and we intend to use all legal avenues at our disposal to defend our honest name in court.
Today Ecodefense received an inspection report from the Ministry of Justice of Russia which declared our organization a “foreign agent.” This decision is unjustified: Throughout its entire history, Ecodefense has made and continues to make decisions by a council consisting of Russian citizens, and never in the interests of any foreign entities. As a matter of principle, Ecodefense has never participated in politics, which we understand as efforts aimed to get access to political power.
The decision by the Ministry of Justice is based on the fact that Ecodefense actively campaigned for many years against the construction of a nuclear power plant near the city of Kaliningrad. The campaign began in 2007 and we at Ecodefense were happy when construction was stopped last year. At the same time, we have been running other projects and campaigns focused, among other issues, on coal, nuclear waste, as well as environmental education and information/media activities, etc. For some reason, however, the Ministry of Justice was interested specifically in one campaign against that nuclear power plant construction.
Notably, a previous inspection by the Russian authorities – undertaken in April 2013 by the Office of Prosecutor General –did not find any problems with Ecodefense’s activities. Two months later, the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant near Kaliningrad was finally abandoned. During the time between the two inspections Ecodefense did not practice any new methods or approaches in this campaign. This is why we understand today’s action by the Ministry of Justice against us to be an act of revenge for our campaign, a campaign that helped to stop nuclear construction.
We at Ecodefense insist that public actions and speeches in opposition to the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant–a sentiment shared by the vast majority of citizens in the Kaliningrad Region–are not political activity that may qualify us as “foreign agents.” Our actions were and remain aimed at protecting the right of Russian citizens to a favorable environment as guaranteed by the Russian Constitution. We regret that the Russian authorities have opted to use this act of repression and we are prepared to protect our reputation in court if needed.
Ecodefense is a Russian environmental group founded in 1989 in Kaliningrad; it runs its activities mostly in Russia through coordinators in Moscow, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and other cities. For the past 25 years, Ecodefense has successfully campaigned against import of nuclear waste into Russia from other countries, as well as against a variety of other environmental risks related to nuclear, coal, oil drilling, and other industrial activities that are hazardous to people and the environment. Ecodefense has also been involved in activities relating to climate issues and promoting renewable energy. Hundreds of teachers and thousands of schoolkids have taken part in Ecodefense’s programs on environmental education in the past two decades.
For more information, please contact:
In Moscow, Vladimir Slivyak – phone +79032997584, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Kaliningrad, Alexandra Koroleva – phone +79114663458, e-mail: email@example.com
www.ecodefense.ru (website in Russian)
June 16, 2014
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