Russian Environmentalists' Office is Ransacked

office confiscated siberia photo

Image from livejournal

Being an environmental activist is serious business. And even more so in Russia right now. Ten days ago TreeHugger wrote about the paper mill in Lake Baikal in Siberia that had been re-opened on Prime Minister Putin's orders. The privately-owned mill had been closed down in 2006 because it was pumping toxic waste into the lake. But alas, in Putin's Russia, when an oligarch wants something, he gets it, and the pulp and paper factory was suddenly declared not to be an environmental hazard.

Yesterday TreeHugger received word that the offices of the activist environmental group, Baikal Environmental Wave had their offices raided by Russian police. Their website was shutdown, computers confiscated and the employees led away.

police computer photo

Image from livejournal

This NGO is well known for its strong environmental stance on the clean-up of Lake Baikal, the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, located in Siberia. According to a news release issued by Pacific Environment:

"Police raided the office of Russian environmental watchdog group Baikal Environmental Wave yesterday without a warrant authorizing a search. Six officers from the local Department without a warrant authorizing a search. Six officers from the local Department of Internal Affairs Consumer Affairs and Counter-Extremism units arrived to shut down the office, citing suspicion that the organization was using pirated software and violating fire safety regulations.

Although the requisite software licenses were presented to officials for inspection, they refused to read the documents. Instead, the policemen proceeded to confiscate staff computers and internal documents. When staff blocked the door to prevent the officers from removing the computers without the applicable warrants, the environmental advocates were escorted to the prosecutor's office under charges of obstructing justice"

pearl lake photo

Image from

The organization's co-director Marina Rikhvanova is a 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize winner. She said "It is clear that the stated reason for investigating Baikal Environmental Wave was just an excuse. The real reason for taking our computers is to paralyze our organization and keep us from protesting the January 18 decision to reopen the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill."

She is meeting with lawyers today to discuss next steps and plans to file a formal complaint with a higher authority.

Good luck and all of our support to her.

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