Protest and Pressure in a Pandemic

Jun 7, 2021

Status of Russia’s foreign agent laws and implications for environmental defenders in 2020.

Russia’s civil society has been under pressure since the beginning of the 2000s, with the situation has become increasingly difficult over the years. Since 2012, the so-called foreign agent laws have been an important tool for controlling and restricting civil society

In a new report on the state of civil society in Russia during 2020, Friends of the Earth Russia (Russian Social Ecological Union) and Friends of the Earth Norway (Naturvernforbundet) show how the passing of several foreign law bills has further limited the space for civil society and human rights.

According to the report, environmental groups and activists interviewed worry more than ever before about their situation. These include those that have not previously been affected by so-called foreign agent laws. The chances of being labelled a foreign agent increased with a new law adopted in 2020, which created a situation allowing any individual and non-registered group to be entered into the register.

At the same time, environmental awareness and activism are growing in Russia. According to recent studies, 35 per cent of Russians are ready to take part in environmental protests, and 56 per cent say that regional and federal authorities are unable to solve environmental problems.

As environmental defenders, the focus in the reports is mainly on the pressure towards environmental NGOs and activists. However, RSEU wants to point out that other parts of Russian civil society also face problems, often more severe. The new laws and amendments are not specifically targeted towards environmental defenders and instead are focused more on political opposition. Nevertheless, the current situation is extremely challenging for environmental defenders.

All around the world, the environmental movement is up against powerful interests. We must build knowledge and capacity to be able to use a wide range of democratic instruments to protect environmental interests.

Russian environmental defenders also participate in public hearings, write reports and brochures, recruit followers and supporters by using social media, and conduct other related activities. Some of this work is still possible, and RSEU is very impressed by Russian environmental defenders for their achievements. 


Read the full report here.

For more information contact:

Vitaly Servetnik,
Russian Social-Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia