Staunton, September 24 – Moscow’s decision to conduct a military exercise on Wrangel Island (map) and its dispatch there of soldiers from the Eastern Military District threatens the delicate ecosystem of that island and violates Russian law and Russian promises to protect that UNESCO-listed world wildlife site, according to Greenpeace Russia.
In a statement released yesterday, the Russian environmental group said that it was especially concerned because the soldiers were being sent into a wildlife sanctuary despite the likelihood that such military actions would threaten the extremely rare flora and fauna there.
Conducting military exercises on the territory of a wildlife preserve, Greenpeace Russia noted, is “the crudest violation of Russian law” which prevents anyone from visiting it without the permission of Russian natural resource officials. “It is difficult to imagine,” the organization said, how it could have happened that 100 soldiers would have been allowed access.
But they have been there since the end of August, Greenpeace Russia said, when officials announced that they were building a base for Russia’s Pacific Fleet in the Arctic.
Among the species of wildlife most likely to be threatened by this intervention, the group continued, are polar bears for whom Wrangel Island is a “birthing place.” If it is disturbed, there is a very real threat that the bears in this part of the Arctic will die out. That would eliminate one of the reasons Wrangel Island was declared a world wildlife heritage site in the first place.
Such Russian actions thus appear to violate the UN Convention on the World Cultural and Natural Resources Heritage, Greenpeace Russia said, and they thus raise the possibility that Wrangel Island might soon be shifted from UNESCO’s list of world wildlife heritage sites onto its list of places where that heritage is under threat.
That would be a “shameful development for any civilized country,” the environmental group concluded.