Russian environmental activist seeks asylum

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Because you disregarded an internationally violently kritisiertes law, was the environmental organization Ecodefense to the attention of the Russian authorities. Now the head of Alexandra Koroleva fled to Germany.

Alexandra Koroleva in Berlin

“In Russia opened a criminal case running against me. To me a sentence of imprisonment of two years,” said Alexandra Koroleva in an interview with DW. At the end of may were instituted against them in Russia, at a distance of only ten minutes is equal to five for “malicious non-fulfillment of a court decision”. The co-founder and Director of the environmental organization Ecodefense in Kaliningrad decided to ask Germany for political asylum.

Ecodefense was founded 30 years ago. The small group had managed to, among other things, to prevent the planned construction of a new nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad. Recently, she was able to stop, together with other environmental organisations, the establishment of a new Mine in the Siberian coalfield in the Kuzbass.

Resistance against NGO law

Koroleva is convinced that your organization is being persecuted for political reasons. “The criminal proceedings were not opened, because we follow as an Organisation, the ‘law on foreign agents’. But this is our principled decision that we made immediately after inclusion in the list of foreign agents,” said the activist.

Since 2012 in Russia all NGOs that receive financial support from abroad, with the authorities as “foreign agents” register, which means a considerable restriction of their activity. In the case of refusal of money, you will face penalties. NGOs continue their activities in spite of the registration, are stigmatized by the authorities and a large part of the population and, therefore, receive hardly any support. Internationally, the law has been criticised at its introduction, partly sharp.

A coal mine in the Western Siberian Kuzbass

Ecodefense was set in 2014 by the authorities on those list, but even then, the organization refused to bend the law. Koroleva, according to you will also no means for a year in order to be given in the audit or the quarterly accountability report, as required by law. In their opinion, the statutory obligations of harassment. “We do not act according to the instructions of foreign foundations. We only get money for the goals of our work, because it is almost impossible to get in Russia, funding for environmental or human rights activities,” said Koroleva. “In addition, the law forcing any organization to provide all their publications with the note ‘Foreign Agent’ – be it books, websites, posters, magazines or business cards. We have not done,” said Koroleva of the DW.

Lawsuit against Russia in Strasbourg

The Russian Ministry of justice imposed Ecodefense again and again fines. They all added up to a total of two million rubles, the equivalent of nearly 30,000 euros. “While the fines against the organization were imposed, the criminal case against me as a leader,” said Koroleva, and underlined that Ecodefense work against the Russian state, but to the right of the people to a healthy environment at the onset.

Ecodefense has joined a lawsuit against the Russian government. “We and several other organizations – we are now 61 – was lodged with the European court of human rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, a complaint and a comprehensive report on the impact of the law on ‘foreign agents’ submitted,” she said. Still, the procedure in Strasbourg. On the question of when they could return to Russia, said Koroleva: “If the criminal is set prosecution is complete.”