In Chukotka, a northern peninsula in the Russian Far East, the local parliament is preparing a motion to curb the regional operations of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), writes Interfax. According to the deputies, the Fund’s nature conservation activities threaten Russia’s national security and infringe upon the local population's interests.
This statement was voiced in Chukotka’s parliament (Duma) at the extended session of the Committee for Industrial and Agricultural Policy.
According to its chair, Lyubov Makhaeva, the Chukotka government had signed an agreement with the WWF on cooperation in environmental protection. “At present, the Fund's activities have gone beyond the scope of our agreement. The WWF is preoccupied with Russia’s Arctic zone and looks to create a 12-mile buffer zone along the Arctic shore, including Chukotka's coastline,” the press release reads.
Valentina Rudchenko, the chair of Chukotka’s Duma, asserts that “creating such a zone would be detrimental to our country's defense capabilities and its economic security.”
“This measure would endanger the passage of vessels along the Northern Sea Route and the laying of submarine communications cables. It would also affect the traditional livelihood of the coastal population, which revolves around hunting sea animals and fishing. These activities may be subject to restrictions,” says Rudchenko as quoted in the press release.
Regional representatives of the All-Russian People's Front (ONF, a pro-government political coalition) also pointed out that the WWF is financed by hostile foreign powers.
According to session participants, “the objective of protecting Chukotka's wildlife could be used as a pretext for banning commercial, sport, or game hunting, fishing, transit and mooring of vessels outside public waterways, geological prospecting, or mining.”
“The session participants unanimously concluded that all agreements with the WWF had to be terminated and that the Fund should be encouraged to withdraw from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug due to its violation of the scope of our previous agreement,” the document informs.
As the journalists learned from the parliament’s press service, the official motion is in the works and will soon be submitted to the Ministry of National Resources and Environment, Chukotka’s government, compliance monitoring authorities, and security agencies.
The regional government and the WWF signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of environmental protection in December 2018. The Fund developed and supported the network of nature reserves, promoted best practices of environmental protection, and ran awareness-raising campaigns. Furthermore, the WWF collaborated with Chukotka’s locals on the so-called ‘Bear Patrol’, which has been in place for ten years.