Saturday, September 1, 2018

Duma Deputy from Sakha Demands Republic Ecology Minister, ALROSA Officials be Fired

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 31 – Protests in many parts of Russia are changing in an important way: Instead of demanding that Vladimir Putin or some other higher up take action to solve a problem, people and their leaders are demanding that this or that official or businessman be dismissed for malfeasance or failure to do their jobs properly.

            That personalization of protest highlights the growing divide between the people and the powers and gives each side less room for maneuver than has been the case earlier. As a result, officials are likely to dig in and the population to be further radicalized, politicizing a situation that might earlier have been resolved more easily with good will on both sides.

            A case in point of this trend comes from Sakha where Fedot Tumusov, a Just Russia deputy in the Russian Duma, has demanded the removal of Sakhamin Afanasyev, the republic’s ecology minister, and the firing of officers of the ALROSA company for complicity in contaminating the rivers there (

            Tumusov says that government and business officials bear full responsibility for “the ecological catastrophe” on local rivers, that the republic must declare a state of emergency to address it, and that those officials responsible be removed from their posts on the basis of Stalin’s principle that “’every problem has a first name and a last name.’”

            The deputy’s call follows protests by local people about the contamination of the rivers of the republic by the ALROSA diamond concern and the failure of officials in the government to do anything about them. At best, they have been “ineffective,” Tumusov says; at worst, they have been complicit with the company.

            The situation in the republic’s rivers has become so bad that activists but not yet officials are warning people against drinking water from them.

            Historically, environmental protection and historical preservation movements were the first stage in national movements in the last decade of the Soviet Union. Now, once again, albeit typically below the radar screen of people in Moscow, they are playing a similar but far more radical role beyond that city’s ring road. 

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