Address by the Working Group “Environment“of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

 

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For a year, residents of the Arkhangelsk Region and the neighbouring Republic of Komi have been constantly fighting for their rights and for the future of their children – in the absence of open and credible information, under conditions of pressure, manipulation with the public opinion and the intentional silencing of the issue of utter importance to them.

We might lose the Russian North because of the authorities’ decision to turn the Arkhangelsk Region into a landfill for the Moscow garbage. The unwillingness of the Moscow government to create a civilised waste management system led to the decision to dispose their own garbage in other regions. Already now, this might be transported to the regions of Kaluga, Kostroma, Vladimir and Yaroslavl[1].

The decision to organise the biggest European landfill with the beautiful title “Ecological and Technological Park ‘Shies’” in the South of the Arkhangelsk Region, near the Shies train station, was made in 2018[2]. There is evidence for massive violations of the law at the project implementation stage. The construction works have been carried out without any project documentation, an environmental assessment, a proper geological research or a public consultation. However, numerous trees have been felled already, workers have been on the site day and night, infrastructure facilities have been built. At the same time, the authorities deny the fact of construction by calling the infrastructure facilities a ‘preparatory work’.

At the initial stage, the authorities were talking of the construction of a waste recycling plant. Later it turned out that this would be an ordinary landfill. Tons of unsorted garbage would be ground and packed in Moscow and then taken hundreds of kilometers away, to the Shies station, where it would be buried for decades. The planned area of the landfill is 3,000 hectares; the volume of the garbage to be stored is 2.3 million tons per year. The construction of the landfill has been executed on a wetland. The Shies marshes feed the rivers Shies and Upper Lupia. Those flow into Vychegda, a tributary of the Northern Dvina River, which, in turn, flows into the White Sea.

The investors and the governments of Moscow and the Arkhangelsk Region refer to a European experience and technology. Such partners as EuRec (Germany), Flexus Balasystem (Sweden) and Satarem (Switzerland) have been named among their partners. According to the authorities, these companies would supply equipment and provide expertise. Apart from that, the project lobbyists tell about an interest of the Norwegians for the project and refer to the Finnish experience. However, the disposal of compressed bales is not an ordinary practice in European countries. In some cases, wrapping compressed waste into a plastic cover is used for transportation over long distances and a short-term (up to one year) storage: For instance, it is the case with the residual waste from the Island of Gotland (Sweden). All this reveals another attempt of the authorities to deceive residents of the region, as well as a desire of some companies to sell their “dirty” technology.

For months, the residents have been trying to protect their right to a favourable environment. They demanded compliance with the legislation and the discontinuation of the illegal construction works. On 7 April 2019, thousands of people gathered at the central square of Arkhangelsk for the first time, even though the authorities had again permitted a rally outside of the city centre. Since that day, a permanent protest has been going on there. People have been on watch all the time and have been expecting the moment, when the construction works are put on hold. Protest actions have been happening in neighbouring regions, too: On 2 June, more than five thousand people gathered in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Republic of Komi. The residents of Kotlas, Moscow, Severodvinsk and Yaroslavl have also been protesting against this barbaric waste disposal solution.

Instead of a respectful and fair attitude, the authorities and private security companies have put residents under constant pressure. Several dozens of activists were subjected to legal violations by law enforcement units. Withdrawals of equipment, arrests, fines have been happening continuously. The hardest pressure have been experienced by those, who have been on a round-the-clock watch at the construction site. Since January 2019, the watch has been there to document violations during the construction works. Throughout these months, the watch members representing the local community have been working hard to acquire information on the construction. In March 2019, the first cases of a physical pressure took place.

In the night from 14 to 15 March, a workers’ power shovel intentionally destroyed a module building of the people on watch; and one person inside was injured. However, actions of the workers did not have any legal consequences. What is more, the locals themselves were blamed for the incident. On 20 April, police officers sealed a module building with a human inside, who fell ill and needed an urgent transportation to a clinic. On 10 May, representatives of a private security company patrolling the construction site beat up local residents, who tried to prevent fuel unloading from the trucks; one of the activists had a concussion of brain as a result, others had proofs of physical harm on their bodies. On 4 June, when activists tried to prevent the repeated construction of an illegal fence around the construction site, a special police force (OMON) forcibly removed them from the site. As of today, dozens of administrative cases against Shies defenders have been opened, four others might face criminal charges.

We demand that the governments of Moscow and the Arkhangelsk Region immediately stop all construction works at the landfill near the Shies train station, as its operation would threaten the environmental situation and biodiversity in the Russian North. We also expect from the government of the Russian Federation that it will bring the Federal Law No. 89-FZ “On Industrial and Consumer Waste” of 24 June 1998 (with corresponding amendments) in compliance with European standards and strictly control the implementation of the law, that it will not allow for the disposal of the waste from one region in another, and it will bring the perpetrators to justice. Furthermore, we demand that the pressure on activists stopped and their safety were guaranteed. Finally, we call on international companies dealing with waste disposal to show their responsible attitude towards our common environment and not to take part in dubious projects in the Russian Federation, which also might harm the neighbouring states.

 

Contacts:

Björn Ecklundt, member of the Working Group “Environment“, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum/ Deutsch-Russischer Austausch e.V. (German-Russian Exchange, Berlin, Germany), bjoern.ecklundt@austausch.org

Nadezhda Inieva, member of the Working Group “Environment“, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum/ Regional Environmental Movement “42“ (Arkhangelsk, Russia), nadyainieva@gmail.com

 

Signatories (ranged according to the incoming date):

  1. Working Group “Environment“ of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum
  2. Vitali Servetnik, Russian Socioecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia (Murmansk, Russia)
  3. St. Petersburg Public Human Rights Organisation “Citizens’ Watch“ (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  4. Pavel Antonov, Executive Editor, BlueLink Foundation (Sofia, Bulgaria)
  5. Alexander Fedorov, Association of Environmental Journalists at the Russian Union of Journalists (Moscow, Russia)
  6. Viktor Yukechev, Tak-Tak-Tak Foundation (Novosibirsk, Russia)
  7. Yuri Dzhibladze, Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Moscow, Russia)
  8. Friends of Siberian Forests (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)
  9. Alexander Nikitin, Head, Environmental Rights Centre “BELLONA” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  10. Alexander Kolotov, Plotina.Net! (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)
  11. Olga Senova, Director, Autonomous Non-Governmental Environmental Organisation “Friends of the Baltics” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  12. Valentina Semiashkina, Save Pechora Committee (Republic of Komi, Russia)
  13. Liudmila Koshkareva, supporter of the sustainability concept and principles, pensioner (Irkutsk, Russia)
  14. Vladimir Desiatov, Green Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  15. Environmental Centre “Dront” (Nizhny Novgorod, Russia)
  16. Natalia Taubina, Director, Public Verdict Foundation (Moscow, Russia)
  17. Artem Alexeev, Executive Director, Environmental Rights Centre “BELLONA” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  18. Albert Garapov, Chair, Antinuclear Society of Tatarstan (Kazan, Russia)
  19. Mikhail Yurchenko, Chair of the Organising Committee, Party “Animal Protection” (Zelenograd, Russia)
  20. Mikhail Tumasov, Russian LGBT Network (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  21. Sergei Mukhachev, Head, Tatar Branch of the Russian Socioecological Union (Kazan, Russia)
  22. Krasnoyarsk Public Youth Environmental Organisation “Green Purse” (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)
  23. Elena Belokurova, St. Petersburg State University/ German-Russian Exchange (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  24. Valentina Yamschikova, Co-Chair, Kostroma Regional Public Environmental Movement “In the Name of Life” (Kostroma, Russia)
  25. Nina Kolipova, Programme “Migration and Law”, Interregional Public Organisation “Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’” (Republic of Komi, Russia)
  26. Larisa Knoll, Chair, St. Petersburg Public Organisation “Centre for Culture and Reconciliation” (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  27. Alexander Esipenok, Squad for Nature Protection in the Town of Dzerzhinsk (Dzerzhinsk, Russia)
  28. Viktor Petrov, Board Chair, Murmansk Regional Public Organisation “Kola Centre for the Wildlife Protection” (Murmansk, Russia)
  29. Sergei Beliaev, Public Organisation “Sutiazhnik” (Yekaterinburg, Russia)
  30. Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague, Netherlands)
  31. Pavel Havlíček, Analyst, Association for International Affairs (Prague, Czech Republic)
  32. Maria Cheremnykh, Centre for Civic Education (Perm, Russia)
  33. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Warsaw, Poland)
  34. Global Nature Fund (Radolfzell, Germany)
  35. Ralph du Long, Dialogue in Progress (Assen, Netherlands)
  36. Sofia Strive, Forum Syd (Stockholm, Sweden)
  37. Anton Khvostov, Saratov Regional Public Organisation “Centre for Social, Legal and Environmental Initiatives” (Saratov, Russia)
  38. Tatiana Kursina, Memorial Centre for the History of Political Repressions “Perm 36” (Perm, Russia)
  39. Viktor Shmyrov, Memorial Centre for the History of Political Repressions “Perm 36” (Perm, Russia)
  40. Yaroslav Nikitenko, Environmental Movement “Habitat” (Moscow, Russia)
  41. Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS Movement (Moscow, Russia)
  42. Anna Skvortsova, NGO Development Centre (St. Petersburg, Russia)
  43. Alexei Zimenko, Biodiversity Conservation Centre (Moscow, Russia)

 

[1] See, e.g., https://www.7×7-journal.ru/articles/2018/04/20/protest-against-the-moscow-waste-in-yaroslavl

[2] For the latest information on the issue, please go to https://7×7-journal.ru/articles/2019/06/04/arkhangelsk-court-has-fined-activist-drevarkh-prosvetlyonnyi-for-participation-in-the-anti-garbage-demonstration-on-april-7 and other related articles on the same website