Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Acting President and Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation
Krasnopresnenskaya nab. 2,
103274 Moscow, Russia
Reference: 21 March 2000
Protest letter from U.S. environmental groups to President Putin
Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev, Director of the FSB
Vladimir Vasilievich Ustinov, Acting Prosecutor General
Grigoriy Alekseevich Yavlinsky, Russian Deputy
Sergei Sergeevich Mitrokhin, Russian Deputy
Tatyana Vladimirovna Yarygina, Russian Deputy
Dr. Aleksey Ivanovich Aleksandrov, Russian Deputy
Rim Sagitovich Bakiyev, Russian Deputy
Maksim Leonidovich Korobov, Russian Deputy
Valentin Vasilyevich Luntsevich, Russian Deputy
Artur Eldenovich Myaki, Russian Deputy
Leon Fuerth, National Security Adviser to US Vice President Al Gore
John Finerty, US Helsinki Caucus Staff Director
His Excellency Yuriy Ushakov, Russian Ambassador to the US
Dear Mr. President:
As representatives of nongovernmental organizations, we have been heartened by some of the recent events in your great country, from the steps that Russia has taken towards democracy to the developments in the application of the rule of law. Like the rest of the world, we have been following your statements supporting due process and the predictable application of laws, which, as you have pointed out yourself, both ensure the rights of individuals and attract foreign investment to Russia.
Although we appreciate your support for these principles, we have been somewhat disappointed by recent activities of the FSB and the Prosecutor’s Office which seem to contradict them. We are writing specifically to express our strong dismay at the growing harassment of nongovernmental environmental organizations in Russia.
After months of the FSB’s intimidation of environmental activists with accusations of espionage and terrorism, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated sudden inspections of the activities and financial documents of environmental organizations across the country. We understand that such investigations are necessary from time to time as part of the implementation of the law, but some of the investigations are clearly designed to harass these groups, not simply to determine whether their activities are legal.
Nonprofit nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like Green World, Sakhalin Environmental Watch, and Techa are working to solve Russia’s serious environmental problems. They should be praised for this work, not persecuted. They are heroes, not “enemies of the people.” The present attempt to discredit and compromise such crucial members of Russian society will only weaken Russia’s movement towards a democratic and sustainable future. As we are sure you realize, citizens’ organizations form the foundation of civil society. They are necessary for the proper functioning of the society and the protection of people’s environmental and human rights. We have seen no evidence linking environmental organizations with espionage. In fact, environmentalists are the real patriots of Russia and our world.
We are additionally disturbed to learn that the Russian Duma is considering altering the Russian Law on Citizens’ Organizations, in order to limit the rights and freedoms of citizens’ groups. We have also learned that it is reviewing a draft law that would expand the rights of the Prosecutor’s Office, specifically allowing prosecutors to independently close down unregistered nongovernmental organizations. We feel that the Law on Citizens’ Organizations should not be weakened in any way, nor should prosecutors have the right to unilaterally stop an NGO’s work.
We suggest that you consider instead the establishment of a Russian governmental foundation like those in many European countries, for financial support of citizens’ organizations. The environmental movement would then not be so financially dependent on assistance from abroad. However, we have always considered Russian organizations to be our respected partners and colleagues, and we believe it is important for us to continue to support and assist each other.
We call on you to use your moral and legal authority to stop all attempts to limit the Constitutional rights and freedoms of Russian citizens and environmental organizations. The organizations now being harassed are the very ones which could lead Russia toward a healthier, safer, and more promising future.