Moscow, 23 May 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian environmentalists today condemned President Vladimir Putin's decision to disband the country's only federal environmental agency. Putin last week signed a decree to disband the agency in order to save money. The head of the State Committee for Environmental Protection, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, said the transfer of his agency's responsibilities to the Natural Resources Ministry was a "step backwards" for Russia.
He charged that with the decree Putin is giving the green light to those who want to pillage Russia's fragile and polluted environment.
"The decree is a call for action for all those who want to steal from the environment. This points [the finger] at the system of environmental protection and gives [thieves] the signal to move. This is what [the decree] is."
According to Danilov-Danilyan, authorizing the Natural Resources Ministry to deal with the environment is like "asking an alcoholic what the price of vodka should be." Greenpeace Russia has also protested Putin's decision.