New research shows oppression of environmental activists in 2021
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has left us all in deep shock – including our colleagues from Russian Social Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia.
Working in the country of the aggressor meant drastic restrictions of the right to expression and association in the past few months. Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Civil society in Russia has suffered systematic repression and silencing by the state since the early 2000s, with difficulties increasing in recent years.
A record-breaking 120 civil society organisations and actors have been declared as “foreign agent”, a label which officially justifies controls and restrictions against them. Another 21 organisations have been classified as “undesirable”.
Monthly reports by the Russian Social Ecological Union describe in detail how environmental activists had to suffer violent and repressive measures. The story of 11 eco-prisoners is a harrowing tale about how singular brave people got silenced when they stood up against the Russian state.
But the report is not about defeat. Despite harsh and dangerous circumstances, 2021 brought victories for the environment and environmental defenders in Russia. After two years of struggle, the Chelyabinsk city forest was saved. Several people received compensation after having been prosecuted illegally. In the Sakhalin region, the dismissed head of the local newspaper was reinstated after the entire staff of the newspaper resigned in protest.
In times of war and repression and beyond, we stand in solidarity with civil society organisations and the environmental movement in Russia. We pay homage to the people who have continued their essential work despite risks of high fines and prison sentences. This year, more urgently than before, we call for support for Russian civil society and their quest for democracy, transparency, international cooperation and sustainable development.