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 statement issued Wednesday, the prosecutor general’s office declared the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to be “undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
The decision bars the nature protection 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 enterprises engaged in the energy, oil and gas industries, as well as those involved in the development of mineral deposits and precious metals.”
The ruling reads: “WWF is carrying out activities to prevent industrial development of the Arctic and harnessing of natural resources in the Arctic territories,” alleging the organization could be part of a plot to help the U.S. take control of Russia’s territorial waters in the far north. No evidence was provided for the assertions.
As an environmental pressure group, the Swiss NGO has warned about the risk of Russia’s plans to dramatically increase shipping through the thawing waters of the Arctic, which experts say could do lasting damage to whale populations.
Human Rights Watch has described the use of legislation to target civil society groups as “insidious,” warning prosecutors can “ban any foreign or international group by claiming they undermine Russia’s security” with little to no due process.