Russia’s civil society has been under pressure since the beginning of the 2000s, with the situation has become increasingly difficult over the years.
In a new report on the state of civil society in Russia during 2020, Friends of the Earth Russia (Russian Social Ecological Union) and Friends of the Earth Norway (Naturvernforbundet) show how the passing of a number of bills has further limited the space for civil society and human rights.
Environmental groups and activists interviewed for the report to worry more than ever before about their situation, according to the report. These include those that have not previously been so much affected by so-called foreign agent laws, which were passed in 2012 as an important tool for controlling and restricting civil society
The chances of being labelled a foreign agent increased with a new law adopted in 2020, which created a situation in which any individual and non-registered group can be entered into the register.
At the same time, environmental awareness and activism is growing in Russia.
According to recent studies, 35 per cent of Russians are ready to take part in environmental protest, and 56 per cent say that regional and federal authorities are unable to cope with solving environmental problems.
Although people may have different reasons for engaging in protests, it seems there is a growing belief that federal and regional authorities are unable, or unwilling, to combat environmental problems.
As environmentalists, the focus in our reports is mainly on pressure towards environmental NGOs and activists. However, we want to point out that other parts of Russian civil society also face problems, often more severe.
The new laws and amendments are not specifically targeted towards environmentalists, and instead are focused more towards political opposition.
Nevertheless, the current situation is extremely challenging for environmentalists.
All around the world, the environmental movement is up against powerful interests, and must build knowledge and capacity to be able to use a wide range of democratic instruments to protect environmental interests.
Russian environmentalists also participate in public hearings, write reports and brochures, recruit followers and supporters by using social media, and conduct other related activities. Some of this work is still possible and we are very impressed by Russian environmentalists for their achievements.