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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Russia

Russia has a federal legal system with environmental matters regulated at both the federal and regional level. At the federal level, this takes the form of codes, laws and subordinate regulations approved by the government and other state bodies.Russia’s constitution contains various provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 58 reads: “Everyone shall have a duty to preserve nature and the environment and to treat natural resources with care”.

According to Article 36, “Possession, utilization and disposal of land and other natural resources shall be exercised by the owners freely provided that this is not detrimental to the environment and does not violate the rights and lawful interests of other people”.

Finally, Article 72 states: The following shall be within the joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and constituent entities of the Russian Federation - “use of natural resources, protection of the environment and provisions for ecological safety; specially protected natural territories, protection of historical and cultural monuments”.

Featured Legislation

1993: Presidential Decree No.234 of 1993 (regarding validation of the Regulation on Federal Mining and Industrial Survey of Russia) was signed. The President decrees to validate the Regulation on Federal Mining and Industrial Survey of Russia, the list of enterprises (organizations), works, objects and activities posted under supervisions of Federal Mining and Industrial Survey of Russia and the list of activities related to the heightened risks of industrial works (objects) and activities and to ensuring safety in the process of the use of subsoil carried out in accordance with special authorization (license) issued by Federal Mining and Industrial Survey of Russia.

1997:Commission Decision 97/102/EC (laying down special conditions governing the import of fishery and aquaculture products originating in Russia) was promulgated. This Decision lays down special conditions governing imports of fishery and aquaculture products originating in Russia. In particular, such products must be accompanied by an original health certificate completed in accordance with the model set out in Annex A. Further, products must come from approved establishments. Article 1 refers to the competent authority in Russia for verifying and certifying compliance of fishery products with the requirements of Directive 91/493/EEC.

2002: Federal Law No. 7-FZ (on environmental protection) was passed. The present Federal Law determines legal grounds for state policy in the sphere of environmental protection ensuring conservation of natural environment, biological diversity and natural resources for the purpose of meeting the demands of the present and the future generations, strengthening law enforcement in the sphere of environmental protection and ensuring ecological safety. Standards in the field of environmental protection shall be intended to establish standards for environmental quality and standards for permissible environmental impact, which, when observed, ensure sustainable functioning of natural ecosystems and conservation of biological diversity.

2004: Regional Law No. 44 (On environmental protection) was introduced. This Regional Law regulates relations in the sphere of environmental protection, promotion of environmental security and conservation of biological diversity with the consideration of geographic, natural, socio-economic and national particulars of the territory and ensuring constitutional rights of citizens to favorable environment. Environmental protection shall be based upon the following principles: (a) observance of the ecological interests of the future generations; (b) rational combination of ecological safety and criteria of economic development; (c) rational management of natural resources with a view of reproduction thereof; (d) state regulation of economic activities; (e) licensing of some activities exercising environmental impact, including waste management; and (f) enforcement of environmental legislation.

2007: Regional Law No. 158-OZ (On public environmental audits) was brought into force. The scope of this Regional Law shall be to ensure realization of the right of citizens to favorable environment and public participation in environmental protection activity. Public environmental audit shall be performed in order to ensure compliance of economic entities with the provisions of environmental legislation. Social environmental inspectors shall be formed on a voluntary basis by citizens of majority age with special skills, experience and training in the sphere of environmental protection. Social environmental inspectors shall perform the following duties: (a) inspection of economic entities with a view of identification negative environmental impact; (b) inspection of territory with a view of identification of environmental pollution; (c) draw reports related to environmental pollution; and (d) exercise other rights envisaged by the federal legislation.

2008: Regional Law No. 14-RZ was established. This Regional Law establishes the modalities of carrying out regional environmental audits, with a view of preventing negative environmental impact, in accordance with the modalities set forth by the Russian legislation. The president of the region shall have plenary powers for organization of regional environmental audit. Authorized state regional environmental institutions shall carry out regional environmental audit, enforce regional environmental legislation and inform the population of planned and ongoing regional environmental audit and outcome thereof.

2010: Regional Law No. 589-4-ZKO (On ensuring environmental security). This Regional Law regulates relations in the sphere of ensuring environmental security thus ensuring the right of citizens to have a clean and healthy environment. Environmental security shall be ensured through: (a) enforcement of environmental legislation; (b) registration of sites exercising negative environmental impact; (c) compliance with basic principles of environmental protection; (d) performance of state ecological monitoring; (e) performance of state environmental audit at the regional level; (f) ecological education; (g) collection of environmental fees for nature management; and (h) environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The  Environmental Watch for Northern Caucasus (EWNC) is a prominent independent environmental group that has been monitoring environmental issues in Russia. Andrey Rudomakha, EWNC’s head, has been very vocal about the mounting pressures faced by environmental rights groups in Russia today, as they come under severe harassment from authorities – the problems seem to be particularly acute in the Krasnodar region. Rudomakha, for example, has been a target for many years now, as the government has labelled EWNC to be an “undesirable organization.” According to Rudomakha, the organization has been raided seven times since 2016 and the last four used the same methods — armed masked men, breaking doors, excessive violence, confiscating all electronics. In 2019, EWNC’s activities were criminalized three times and raided 4 times; an attempt to target and harass environmental activists, these raids have created a movement in Russia, as citizens and EWNC are trying to fight back, contesting the legality of the previous raids. Only one legal challenge yielded success, but the organization intends to challenge the most recent November raid as well. While local authorities have attempted to label EWNC “foreign agents”, the EWNC has succeeded in getting those decisions quashed in higher courts. An investigation into a  2017 violent attack on Rudomakha that landed him in the hospital has still not yielded any results, despite the fact that the attackers were caught on a CCTV camera. Environmental activists in the Krasnodar region and in particular EWNC are among the most targeted and harassed environmental groups in the country, but they are not alone. During the declared “Year of Ecology " in Russia in 2017, at least 14 environmental nongovernmental organizations  were either shut down or suspended all work as a result of  the “foreign agent” law.

References and Further Reading