Environmental Movement 42 (Is a “Foreign Agent”)

Hi!

It’s the 7X7 team on the line. Today we’re going talk about the environmental movement 42 and why it suddenly became a “foreign agent.”

Approximate reading time: 4 minutes.

Some people look forward to Friday to go drinking after the work week, but we look forward to Friday to learn the names of the new “foreign agents,” as designated by the Russian Justice Ministry. Their updates to the registry of “foreign agents” are like a new episode of a TV series, the release of a long-awaited game, or a new song by a favorite artist. Russian officials know how to put on a show, you can’t take that away from them.

This week, The Bell, ex-What? Where? When? contestant Rovshan Askerov, TV Rain journalist Mikhail Fishman, philosopher Ruben Apresyan, and the Environmental Movement 42 were added to the registry. We’re going to tell you about 42, an eco-movement based in Arkhangelsk.

What does 42 do?

Article 42 of the Russian Constitution states: “Everyone has the right to a favorable environment.” The movement named itself after this article. 42’s activists run online seminars on eco-education, talk on social media about the Arkhangelsk Region’s unique sites, and organize subbotniks.

Everyone can lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can start by sorting and recycling garbage. So, the 42 team, together with the Ecomobile project, accepts glass, plastic, metal, and paper for recycling. And for convenience, once a month a real ecomobile drives around Arkhangelsk, staffed with activists to whom residents can hand over their recyclables.

“Foreign agent”

42 is this environmental organization’s second incarnation. They used to be called Aetas, but in 2017 the Justice Ministry designated the organization a “foreign agent.” The reason they were put on the registry was their cooperation with the Norwegian activist group Natur og Ungdom, which financed some of Aetas’s events, including free children’s camps, expeditions, and Ecobattle, an annual championship for collecting recyclables.

After they were put on the foreign agents registry, the activists founded a new movement, 42, in February 2018. But it was also designated a “foreign agent” this past Friday, December 9. Will there be a third incarnation and a second reincarnation? We’ll see.

Organizations and individuals are place on the “foreign agents” registry for a reason. You have to consistently and vigorously mess with the state’s attempts to generate tyranny and speak out against it. But how did people trying to organized segregated waste collection deserve the new designation? One can never say for sure, but there is speculation that the reason they were placed on the registry is that they have called for locals to participate in public discussions about the construction of a new waste sorting complex in the village of Kholmogory.

Friends in misery

Someone may think that the title of “foreign agent” is a seal of excellence. Perhaps this is partly true, but it is also a heavy burden for any organization, especially if it is located in Russia. Foreign agents have to submit additional reports, indicate their foreign agent status on any public platforms, and cannot receive state grants.

In 2022, the Russian government has been pressuring activists from environmental protest groups more vigorously than usual, but most often not for environmentalism, but for anti-war statements. On December 9, Elena Kalinina, one of the participants of the protests in Shiyes, was ordered by a court to refrain from certain activities due to her alleged “repeated discrediting of the army.” Ivan Ivanov, chairman of the Pechora Rescue Committee, was fined by a court in June for appealing to Putin to stop the war. And Arshak Makichyan of Fridays for Future and his family members were stripped of their Russian passports altogether: officials claimed that they had suppled false information when they applied for them in the early noughties after moving from Armenia.

Life goes on

Fines, bans, and denaturalization. But is there any good news? Of course there is! And we at 7×7 are just the people to find it for you.

Greenpeace opened its first branch in the USSR in 1992 [sic: the Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991]. The money for opening this branch was raised from the sales of a charity album called Greenpeace Breakthrough. Songs for the album were recorded by U2, Sting, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, and others.

Thirty years later, a collection called Greenpeace Breakthrough 3.0 has been released in Russian. The songs on it were recorded by Samsara, Electrophoresis, Neschatsnyi Sluchai, Nogu Svelo, and other Russian-speaking artists. The artists will transfer the money received from the auditions to environmental organizations in Russia.

In its group description on VK, 42 writes: “We are safeguarding nature in Russia until better times.” Indeed, garbage recycling and subbotniks may seem unimportant now, but this is not the case. The war will end, and the country and its nature will still be a concern for inhabitants of the regions.

Take care of yourself. Thank you for sticking with us.

Source: “Focus” email newsletter, 7X7, 12 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


THIS IS THE LAST POST

Today, the Russian Justice Ministry placed the Environmental Movement 42 on its registry of foreign agents. It should be noted that the persons listed as members of an association are not deemed “individual foreign agents.” This bit of misinformation has been widely repeated. 😡

❗About the law

The Law on Foreign Agents has been in force in Russia since 2012. At that time, you to had to engage in political activity and receive foreign funding to earn a spot on the registry. Despite the fact that “activities for the protection of flora and fauna” are excluded from the law as forms of political activity, thirty-four environmental organizations have been placed on the registry to date. Ten years later, on December 1, a new law on foreign influence went into force. Its implications are unclear. You are probably reading this post on a smartphone manufactured somewhere other than Russia. You listen to foreign music, watch foreign movies, and go on holiday to Turkey. Under the new law all these things can be deemed “foreign influences.”

❗Our opinion

Naturally, we do not agree with our inclusion on this registry. If we are “agents,” we are only agents of nature. Our families have lived in the Arkhangelsk Region for several generations. We are rooted to this land, and so our principal mission is safeguarding nature and the well-being of future generations. This is reflected in our name: 42 is the number of the article in the Russian Constitution that states that everyone has the right to a favorable environment. We doubt that the people who put us on this registry have the same love for our region and our people as we do, that they understand the connection between environmental mistakes and people’s health and safety.

We are not surprised by this turn of events. Unfortunately, this is the trend — to drown out the public’s voice. Why do you think we were included in the registry? Just a few days ago, we published information about public hearings on the proposed construction in Kholmogory of a municipal solid waste processing facility with a capacity of 275 thousand tons. There was clearly an attempt by the authorities to hold the hearings quietly and unnoticed; even local council members didn’t know about them. Due to the attention they attracted, the administration has had to hold a second round of hearings, which now will be going on until January 7. But again, the project documentation has not been made available, although it is topic of discussion. Why all these secrets? Why the pressure on us?

❗What’s next?

We do not know what we’ll do next, because the law is quite harsh and imposes numerous burdens, including financial ones, which we simply cannot afford. We are consulting with lawyers about this. It is very easy to break the “rules,” the fines are large, and there is a risk of criminal liability for us. The safety of the people who selflessly protect nature under 42’s auspices is important to us.

We will be glad of any support on your part. You can also like, comment, and share information here as before (the lawyers explained that it is safe). This is our last post without the ugly boilerplate [indicating “foreign agent” status], which from tomorrow we will be obliged to put in all our informational materials. 🤕

* The photo, above, shows members of 42 after they arrived in Shiyes for a week-long vigil on the eve of 8 March 2019.

Source: Environmental Movement 42, VK, 9 December 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader


The Arkhangelsk-based Ecological Movement “42” is one of the first to be listed after Russia on December 1 drastically expanded the oppressive foreign agent legislation. The eco-group was started after Aetas environmental organization in 2017 was declared foreign agents and shut down.

“The only agents we are, are agents of nature,” the group wrote at its site on VKontakte when it became known that the Ministry of Justice in Moscow declared them so-called foreign agents.

“Naturally, we do not agree with the inclusion of us in the register.”

The foreign agent law itself was adopted in 2012 and said that registered organizations could be listed if they conducted political activities and got funding from abroad.

Later, successive amendments in 2017 and 2019 expanded the law to include media, individuals and non-registered associations.

The latest expansion of the law, adopted in July and entering force on December 1, says individuals, organizations, legal entities, or groups without official registration, receiving foreign support, or are “under foreign influence” and conduct activities that authorities would deem to be political would be listed as foreign agents.

The definition of “foreign influence” and “political” could be endlessly broad.

In Arkhangelsk, the Ecological Movement “42” says they don’t know for what reasons it is included on the list.

“Preservation of nature, and hence the preservation of the well-being of future generations, is our main goal and task.”

42 points to the article in the Russian Constitution stating that everyone has the right to a favorable environment.

“We doubt that those people who included us in the register have the same love for our region, for our people, understand the connection of errors with the health and safety of people,” the group says.

The eco-group has over the last years worked actively worked to stop the plans to establish a huge dump field for household waste from Moscow in Shiyes, far north in the taiga forest in the borderland between Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic.

Ecological Movement “42” was started by former members of Aetas, another youth eco-group that in 2017 had to shut down after being labeled as “foreign agents.”

The group is only for members under the age of 30. It is member of the Russian Social Ecological Union, the Climate Action Network and the Stop Shiyes Coalition.

Since 2012, 34 environmental organizations in Russia have been included in the foreign agent register.

The foreign agent law was also used to shut down the human rights group Memorial that last weekend was given the Nobel Peace Price for 2022 in Oslo.

The “foreign agents” designation, which carries negative Soviet-era connotations, burdens subjects with strict labeling and auditing requirements.

Many independent journalists, activists and civil society figures have been added to the registry in recent years amid a sweeping crackdown on non-Kremlin-aligned voices.

Source: Thomas Nilsen, “Rebranded ecological youth group declared foreign agent,” Barents Observer, 12 December 2022

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