Greens demand trial for poaching

Environmental groups are demanding that the survivors of a helicopter crash in Altay, which resulted in the death of seven people including presidential envoy Alexander Kosopkin, be brought to trial for animal poaching.

The request for a criminal case was delivered by Russia’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to General Prosecutor Yury Chaika on Thursday.

The head of the WWF in Russia, Igor Chestin, believes that “the Investigative Committee is disinclined to launch a case of illegal hunting in the mountains of Altay,” because high-ranking officials were involved in the incident.

A preliminary criminal case was opened due to a violation of air safety rules, while the WWF and Greenpeace are requesting a separate investigation into the hunting of argali, an endangered species, in Altay on January 9, 2009. The groups also want to initiate poaching charges.

A WWF statement said: “Environmentalists have signed a letter addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev and the speaker of the State Duma, Boris Gryzlov, with an appeal to qualify the moral aspects of the Altay accident.”

The response from the Investigative Committee at the Office of General Prosecutor was published on the WWF’s official web site. It said: “The arguments brought in the claim will be checked in the investigation of the criminal case involving the crash of helicopter MI-171 on the territory of Kosh-Agachsky region of the Altay Republic.”

Hunting endangered species

According to Russian legislation, the hunting of animals that appear on the Red List qualifies as a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 roubles ($US 8,300). Hunting animals through the use of aircraft is an aggravating circumstance.

The Investigative Committee says that “all evidence found at the scene of the tragedy has been registered and included into the case documents. The investigation… will also reveal the presence of other crimes, including poaching”.

Meanwhile, civic groups from Altay said they are prepared to help ban hunting in Altay after the helicopter crash. The offer was addressed to UNESCO headquarters in Paris, the WWF and to the Federal Service for the Supervision of Natural Resources.