Vladimir Putin isn't exactly the most popular person in the world right now, and this probably won't improve your opinion of him and his cronies. Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist who recently won a Goldman Environmental Prize for his work trying to expose "government corruption and illegal exploitation of federally protected forestland along Russia’s Black Sea coast", has shown that the Russian president and his entourage have been grabbing huge areas of land in the forests surrounding the Black Sea, some of the richest ecosystems in Europe.
Why the land-grab? To build secret luxury mansions, ski resorts, mines, etc.
Back in 2010, the government dropped plans for a presidential palace for then-president Dmitry Medvedev after activists brought public attention to the environmental harms it would have caused. That kind of successful activism would be next to impossible now, because of the Russian government’s ever-tightening grip on the media and civil society, says Suren Gazaryan, a zoologist who led the campaign.
“I believe that [the public's] environmental consciousness is actually lower in Russia as a result of years of propaganda framing environmental activists as agents of the West, taking orders from outside the country,” says Gazaryan. [...] But environmentalists and the United Nations documented large-scale destruction of wetlands, river valleys and 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of untouched forests, all done legally after the Russian government’s reversal of laws limiting construction in national parks. That reversal opened up Russia’s pristine forests—the habitat of hundreds of endangered species—to the construction of ski resorts and mining operations. And, of course, the vast vacation retreats for top government officials, the majority of which Gazaryan says flout environmental law. They also beggar the imagination.
“These aren’t homes—they’re palaces,” says Gazaryan. (source)
Here's the very brave Suren Gazaryan:
Kudos for shining a light on this! Keep up the good work!