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‘What are they smoking?’ Greenpeace ridicules NATO claims of Russian fracking plot

Greenpeace has denied a NATO claim that Russia is secretly working with EU environmental groups to oppose fracking. NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen has alleged Russia is trying to promote dependence on its gas exports through sabotage.

Rasmussen told reporters Thursday that Russian intelligence agencies were secretly funding and collaborating with European environmental groups to prevent shale gas exploitation through a process known as fracking.

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” he told an audience at Chatham House, the international affairs think-tank.

However, Rasmussen refrained from giving any further evidence to back up his assertions.

Greenpeace derided the idea that the Russian government is masterminding public opposition to fracking as ridiculous.

“The idea we’re puppets of Putin is so preposterous that you have to wonder what they’re smoking over at NATO HQ,” a Greenpeace spokesman said, responding to NATO’s claims. "Mr Rasmussen should spend less time dreaming up conspiracy theories and more time on the facts.”

In addition, a representative from the environmental group Rising Tide, Tony Cottee, told The Independent that Rasmussen had no idea what is happening on the ground.

“It shows how ludicrously out of touch these people are. He clearly doesn’t know the type of person that has been turning up to demonstrate,” he said.

The practice of fracking entails blasting water and chemicals at high pressure into fissures in rocks thousands of meters underground to extract hidden deposits of gas and oil. There has been significant public opposition to fracking because of the environmental side-effects it has caused in the past. Scientists say that the practice can cause water contamination as well as small earthquakes.

In the UK, the government has championed fracking as a way of driving down rising utility bills and creating jobs. The British Geographical Survey has estimated there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas contained in shale rocks in the North of England, while it estimates the South could hold between 2.2 billion and 8.6 billion barrels of shale oil.

Nevertheless, the exploitation of fracking reserves has prompted strong opposition from residents who will be affected by the process. The government triggered a sharp reaction from 'fracktivists' when it announced plans earlier this year to change trespassing laws to allow fracking on private land.

In response, Greenpeace activists blocked access to Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in the Cotswolds, erecting a metal fence and putting up a sign that read: “We apologise for any inconvenience we may cause while we frack under your home.”

The activists also tried to deliver a novelty check for 50 pounds ($84) – the amount ministers have said will be compensated to individual homeowners if fracking is conducted under their property.