To the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin


Copies to:
Government of the Russian Federation, Chairman M.M. Kasyanov
Government Duma of the Russian Federation, Chairman G.N. Seleznev
General Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation, General Procurator V.V. Ustinov
Ministry for Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, Minister V.G. Artyukhov
Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East of the RF, President S.N. Haryuchi
Administration of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Head of the Administration V.Ya. Butov
Council of Deputies of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Chairperson V.F. Glazunova

Dear President Putin,

We, the Yasavey Association, hereby address you in response to the uncontrolled situation which has developed around the exploitation of natural resources in the Nenets Okrug. The council representing the local community, the Yasavey Association for the Nenets People (henceforth the Yasavey Association) has decided to do so on September 11, 2002. The situation has seriously alarmed us and compels us to conclude that grave violations of ecological standards and Russian legislation are occurring.

On September 10, 2002, we participated in an aerial survey undertaken by the commission for land plot allocations on behalf of the prospecting company YSC “Archangelskgeoldobycha”. The purpose of was to find new sites for the construction of prospecting wells. During the flight we also passed over sites belonging to other companies and were horrified by what we saw.

We had the impression that many companies, in particular Russian companies, were executing natural resource exploitation in the Nenets Okrug on a similar level of that which took place during the 70’s, in the Soviet era. Up-to-date technology, however, is being employed in oil extraction, by companies such as Ardalinskoye (Kompaniya Polyarnoe Siyanie), the Haryaginskoe deposit (Total Fina Elf), etc.

These companies do not follow ecologically sound practices and environmental regulations and violate labour requirements under Arctic conditions when extracting oil deposits. Examples of such companies include the Kalmytskaya oil company, “PechoraNeft”, ZAO “Lukoil-Sever”, Danao – Engineering, ZAO “Severgeoldobycha”, etc. And these are only a few examples. Acute circumstances where there is no control whatsoever are in the south-eastern part of the Nenets Okrug. There are periodical oil spillages and degradation of the upper soil layers in the tundra during the summer season. All these factors inflict irreparable damage to the Arctic natural environment.

It is our opinion that the government organs of the administration and the Federal authorities of the Nenets Okrug do not fulfill their functions. In practice there is no supervision and no monitoring of oil prospecting and extraction and this makes it possible for the companies to downgrade their working standards and parctices which in turn leads to violations.

There still exists no comprehensive, government-approved programme for the exploitation of oil in the Timan-Pechora province.

We can enumerate a great number of violations, but our opinion is that changes must occur from the bottom up.

The Nenets Okrug is first and foremost a pasture for reindeer. For as far back as human memory extends, Nenets and Komi indigenous peoples in this region have maintained a traditional way of life rooted firmly in reindeer husbandry.

These are the people who mainly suffer as a result of the barbaric attitudes of newcomers to the Arctic natural environment even though indigenous rights are guaranteed by Federal legislation as well as international agreements. The Russian Federation is a party to this injustice. Situations emerge whereby the interests of the reindeer herders and the oil companies conflict quite strongly.

We appeal to you to take the necessary measures, without delay, and bring order to the Nenets Okrug. In addition a system whereby the government undertakes continual supervision and monitoring of natural resource exploitation in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug must be developed and implemented. Our opinion is that the government of the Russian Federation must take the following measures, namely:

By taking these steps without delay, the Russian Federation will support the protection of the Arctic environment – which is already quite fragile – at the same time as protecting the rights of the indigenous peoples, as well as all the inhabitants of the Nenets Okrug, to utilize nature in a traditional manner. Furthermore, it will enable principles of sustainable development to be implemented in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

We will gladly participate actively in carrying out such supervision and continue searching for acceptable solutions for a sustainable development of the Nenets Okrug.

It is our sincere hope that you as the guarantor of our constitutional rights will take all necessary measures to protect your citizens, allowing them to realise their constitutional rights.

Please find enclosed material concerning the results of the aerial survey on September 10, 2002:
1. Excerpt from the note of the Yasavey Association
2. A poster called “Extracting oil deposits in the Nenets Okrug”
3. A CD with photographs

Sincerely Yours,
V.V. Peskov
President of the Yasavey Association for the Nenets People