Staunton, Apr. 20 – The war in Ukraine has proved a godsend for Russia’s major timber companies. They no longer follow environmental standards required to export wood to Europe or even Russian laws protecting some ancient forests, and the Kremlin has helped by closing down or restricting the activity of all independent environmental defense organizations.
Putin’s war in Ukraine is having a negative impact on ever more aspects of life in Russia, and the Kremlin leader is doing his best to justify what is going on by blaming outsiders and at the same time making it more difficult for people to learn the truth by repressing those who seek to report it.
Nowhere is this pattern more obvious and more likely to have long term consequences for the country and indeed the world than in what has happened to the forests of the Russian Federation and to those organizations which have long tried to defend these natural resources for the future.
When the EU stopped importing Russian timber products, Russian firms no longer felt compelled to live up to the standards the EU requires and began cutting down old growth forests across the Russian North, ending what had been a moratorium on such activities that had been in place for several years.
According to some observers, one major firm alone has now harvested wood on 1.5 million hectares of land, destroying natural habitats, making flooding more likely, and opening the land to criminal activities of various kinds (istories.media/stories/2023/04/20/ekologiya-voennogo-vremeni/).
The Kremlin has justified all this by talking about “sovereign ecology,” a concept that suggests any country can do anything it wants to the environment. And to allow that to happen in Russia without interference, Moscow has closed numerous environmental groups it doesn’t control and converted the rest into pocket organizations which do the regime’s bidding.
Last year, the Russian justice ministry labeled four environmental groups foreign agents – Friends of the Baltic, Arkhangelsk’s Movement 42, Sakhalin Ecological Watch, and the Center for Preservation and Study of Fish and Fish Habitats. Shortly after that, all four of these groups were closed.
Now, Moscow is moving more broadly. In the last month, it has labeled Norway’s Bellona Organization an undesirable group (thebarentsobserver.com/en/life-and-public/2023/04/russia-labels-bellona-undesirable-organization) and declared the World Wildlife Fund a foreign agent (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-кремль-расправляется-с-экологами-под-лозунгом-«суверенной-природоохраны»).
The Putin regime clearly believes that it can do what it wants in this sphere and that if no one knows about it, Moscow won’t suffer any consequences for its aggression against the environment.