Moscow has barred the world’s largest wildlife conservation organization from operating in Russia over claims it is working to undermine the economy as it steps up its campaign against civil society organizations.
In a declaration released on Wednesday, the attorney general’s office said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was « undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation. »
The decision prevents the nature conservation NGO from working in the country under the terms of a 2015 law used to shut down dozens of groups since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
According to Russian officials, « WWF’s initiatives are aimed at large companies engaged in the energy, oil and gas sectors, as well as those involved in the development of mineral deposits and precious metals. »
The ruling reads: « WWF is carrying out activities to prevent the industrial development of the Arctic and the exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic territories », arguing that the organization could be part of a plot to help the United States take control of the territorial waters of Russia in far north. No evidence has been provided for the claims.
As an environmental lobby group, the Swiss NGO has warned on the risk of Russia’s plans to dramatically increase shipping through Arctic meltwaters, which experts say could cause permanent damage to whale populations.
Human Rights Watch has described the use of the legislation to target civil society groups as « insidious », warning that prosecutors can « ban any foreign or international group on the grounds that they undermine Russia’s security » with little or no trial.