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Bellona meets Medvedev on state visit to Oslo to pressure environmental recovery in Murmansk

Vladislav Nikiforov/Bellona

Publish date: April 27, 2010

Translated by: Charles Digges

On a state visit Monday to Oslo coinciding with the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26, 1986, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was greeted by banners brought 2,000 kilometres by representatives of Bellona Murmansk reading “Mr President, turn the attention of Murmansk’s governor to Ecoproblems.”

Their appeals were heard as Bellona President Frederic Hauge attended a state lunch with Medvedev at Oslo’s Akershus Fortress.

Hauge delivered a letter from three of Bellona Murmank’s representatives that was an invitation to current Murmansk Governor Dmitry Dimitriyenko to resume cooperation with grassroots organisations in the region to ensure a focus on renewable energy potential on the northern Kola Peninsula.

Anna Kireeva, a reporter from Bellona Murmansk’s office and one of the activists who had travelled to Oslo reported that Medvedev saw their banner.

“We saw that he turned around to read all our bannere as he sat in the car on the road away – there is no doubt that he got it, “ she said.

“It was nice to greet the (Russian) president,” said Hauge. “But most important for Bellona in such a context, is the signal of strength it shows to be invited,” he said.

“When we are present in such an arena,the Russian security police see that the Norwegian authorities recognize our position and influence. It actually gives our employees in Russia increased security,” in an atmosphere that is inhospitable to the environmental movement.  

bodytextimage_HaugeMedvedev-1..jpg Photo: Berit Roald / Scanpix

A year ago, former Murmansk Region Governor Yury Yevdokimov, who had strong leanings for renewable energy, was replaces my Dmitry Dmitriyenko, who has cut cooperation with Bellona Murmansk and other NGOs with whom Yevdokimov had established good relations.

Area environmental organisations have turned to Dmitriyenko on more than one occasion, sending letters and appeals, but all attempts to develop a dialogue have come to nothing, and have not been answered.

“We have exhausted all possibilities for mutual cooperation with the governor of the Murmansk Region and decided to come to Norway during the visit of our president knowing that the governor would also be in attendence,” said Andrei Ponomarenko, Bellona Murmansk’s coordinator of nuclear and radiation safety projects.

Ponomarenko noted that the Kola Peninsula, home to the Murmansk Region, is the host of myriad ecological problems that must be dealt with, including problems and nuclear and radiation safety.

“We are very surprised by the position of our governor, who consider the biggest ecological problem of the Region to be trash,” said Ponomarenko. “The region is home to many installations for the use of nuclear energy, oil transport, and  industrial waste from  mining”

Yury Sergeyev, renewable energy projects coordinator for Bellona Murmansk, said the demonstration was a needed measure.

“The Murmansk Regional governor doesn’t want to conduct a dialogue with ecologists. But what is most worrying is that he doesn’t wish to pay attention to existing ecological problems,” said Sergeyev. “We were forced to turn appeal to the Russian President to change the situation. It is strange but true that there is more of a possibility for activists to draw attention to the situation,” he said.

Bellona Murmansk chairman Andrei Zolotkov said, “We tried to operate constructively and get a dialogue going with the governor. We sent him letters explaining existing problems and asked for meetings to discuss existing ecological problems and how to solve them.”

Zolotkov said that two such letters had been sent. “In answer to the first we received the usual run around from the Nature Committee (of the Murmansk Regional government – to the second we receive no reply at all.”

Zolotkov added that, “Our work experience shows that only under circumstances of mutual understanding and cooperation with the authorities can we effectively solve problems for the benefit of Kola polar region.”

Bellona president Hauge said that over the past few years the situation of developing ecological projects in the Murmansk region has significantly deteriorated. Efforts toward renewable energy have nearly ground to a stop.

“I hope now that Medvedev puts pressure on the Murmansk Region’s governor so that he resume important cooperation with NGOs in the region,” said Hauge after the state lunch with Medvedev.

“It is crucial that civil society’s working conditions improve in Russia – and I hope it will happen after Medvedev visit to Norway,” he said.

Ruth Astrid Saeter and Anna Kireeva contributed to this report.

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