Kremlin gathering leaves Russian greens unsatisfied

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday met environmental NGOs to praise their "tough" stance, but many activists were not invited and said the gathering was unrepresentative.

"Many people -- especially those in authority -- do not like you because you adopt a very tough and demanding position," Medvedev, on a lawn chair, told NGO members in a Kremlin garden meeting.

The Kremlin had invited 25 representatives of environmental NGOs to meet the Russian leader, who told his guests "a lot depends" on them.

A list of activists who met the president was posted on the Kremlin's website.

It included representatives of state-funded groups such as Mestnye, an offshoot of pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashim, but lacked the names of several top environmental activists.

"The Kremlin called me last week and invited me to the meeting, but in the end I did not receive the invitation," said Andrei Rudomakha of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.

"I told them I wanted to address environmental impact of the Sochi Olympics and destruction of the Utrish nature reserve," reportedly a location for an unofficial presidential residence, he said.

Yevgenia Chirikova, the leader of a group opposing a controversial road through the Khimki forest in the Moscow region, was not invited, nor was Dmitry Lisitsyn of Sakhalin Environment Watch who recently received the Goldman Environmental Prize for his work to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Pacific island of Sakhalin.

"If I was compiling the list of invited activists, I would compile a very different list," said Sergei Tsyplenkov, who heads Greenpeace's Russian office.

"I am cautiously hopeful that this meeting was not just carried out just pro-forma ... but the question remains whether there is real concern about the environment or if this is just publicity," he told AFP after attending the meeting.

© 2011 AFP

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