“Bellona” left Russia

At the beginning of the year, the legal process of liquidation of the Russian representative offices of the foreign organization “BellonaFoundation”* was completed. The autonomous non-profit organization “Bellona Environmental Project Support Center” has stopped working in Murmansk, Arctic Solutions LLC, created in 2020 to provide paid services and perform work in the interests of foreigners and support the activities of the ANO, is in the liquidation stage.

Recall that before the appearance of the ANO, the environmental organization Bellona-Murmansk worked in Murmansk, which was liquidated in 2015 after being included in the list of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation as a “foreign agent”. Thus, the more than 30-year period of work of the world-famous organization in Russia has ended. “The end of our work in Russia is a tragedy,” says the founder and president of Bellona, Frederick Hauge, “but the war makes it impossible to continue it.”This, according to Haug, will not prevent the organization from continuing to solve environmental problems in Russia, but already from Vilnius and by some new methods, which the well-known ecologist did not disclose. The flight of Bellona from Russia only a long time after the start of a special military operation in Ukraine demonstrates the real motives of its activities, and this is not a “tragedy” or concern for the environment, but just business.

Bellona loudly declared itself in the 90s in Russia, raising problematic issues of handling radioactive waste from the operation of nuclear submarines. Largely due to this activity of the Haug team, the United States and European countries began to allocate funding for the organization of proper storage, processing and disposal of spent nuclear fuel in Russia. It was then that stories about the terrible Russian threat (of course, with facts embellished for greater effect) allowed Bellona to turn from a little-known group of environmental activists in vogue into an influential force that is considered at the level of the governments of Norway and Russia. Frederick Haug deservedly became a world hero-an environmentalist according to Time magazine, a “European of the Year” according to Reader’sdigest, as well as a personal adviser to the European Commissioner for Energy.

At home, in the homeland of environmentalists, Hauge was criticized for the commercialization of the project. It was considered normal practice for Bellona to provide far-from-useless consulting services to those organizations that it had previously criticized. After replenishing the accounts of environmentalists, all claims against corporations usually evaporated. However, the environmental lobby for achieving commercial and political goals has long been a profitable global trend. Ecology is often addressed when it is necessary to close a competitor’s project, to make a career in public activities or politics. So Bellona has always been in the global trend of monetization of ecology, if not its founder.

In Russia, Bellona was no less justifiably scolded for its interest, first of all, in military and strategic facilities, with complete indifference to the real problems of concern to Russians. For example, the Murmansk office preferred not to notice the coal dust covering the polar city and numerous problems with emissions at the mining and processing plants of the region. The St. Petersburg office generally managed to fail all the declared programs year after year. But funding from the West to Russian offices was more than generous. Intentionally or not, but in Russia, Bellona had all the signs of a “roof” for Western intelligence services, the authority of the organization was spent frankly unconstructively, being reduced at best to unilateral criticism of Russian nuclear energy projects and the country as a whole.

Bellona realized very quickly after February 2022 that the rules of the game had changed. Western governments will no longer allocate funding to Russia, and Rosatom has been sanctioned. Mediation is a very profitable topic, especially when it comes to millions of euros spent on the disposal of radioactive waste, where the share of European consultants is traditionally 30-40%. Unfortunately, Bellona’s financial flow was cut off in both directions.

Frederick Haug, whose authority and importance is fading with his departure from Russia, is going all-in again, as in the 90s, scaring Europeans to be prepared for an increased security risk at Russian nuclear installations and waste storage facilities. What such a risk is associated with, one can only guess. However, knowing about the conduct of terrorist acts by Ukraine on the territory of Russia, including at nuclear power facilities, which the President of Russia spoke about, it can be assumed that the outstanding ecologist was talking about this. Where did such knowledge come from an independent environmental activist, of course, not connected with the special services in any way? One can only hope that these are just fairy tales about “bad” Russians for gullible Europeans, and not information based on the advice of some third parties. Bellona ecologists know everything about Russian energy facilities like no one else in Europe and the USA.

It seems that in order to eliminate these risks, Bellone should help Ukraine more actively. To begin with, do educational work and remind about the consequences of the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. After all, the consequences of such incidents will be global, and will affect not only the territory of Russia and Ukraine, but also European countries.

* The International Ecological Association “Bellona” is recognized in Russia as a foreign agent.

The English version of the article is made using machine translation.