Two prominent Russian environmental activists have criticized the presidential candidate for the U.S. Green Party, saying her positions on President Vladimir Putin and his policies are “deeply shocking.”
The open letter by Yevgenia Chirikova and Nadezhda Kutepova is unlikely to fundamentally alter the electoral prospects of Jill Stein in the race for the White House.
She’s running distant to the more mainstream candidates for the White House from the Democratic and Republican parties, and some polls show her Green Party trailing the other major alternative political party, the Libertarians.
But the letter put the spotlight on some of Stein’s more controversial statements, as well as the plight of Russian environmentalists, who have been subjected to increasing repressions, along with other civil-society groups.
In the letter posted to Chirikova’s Facebook page on September 6, the two activists disparaged Stein for a visit to Moscow last year in which she appeared at a forum sponsored by the state-run satellite television channel Russia Today, now known as RT.
Stein, a 66-year-old physician turned activist, appeared at the Moscow forum in December 2015, an event that was also attended by Putin.
A news release posted on Stein’s campaign website highlighted her attendance and her calls for more cooperation between Washington and Moscow, particularly regarding the five-year civil war in Syria. The statement closely echoes comments voiced by the Kremlin and Russian officials about U.S. policies in the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere.
The two Russians said they often support environmental candidates in elections around the world.
“We have carefully read your program and your website and we have to admit that we are deeply shocked by the position you expressed during your visit to Moscow and your meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin,” they said.
They pointed to Stein’s call for a “collaborative dialogue” with Moscow to prevent future wars, to fight climate change, and other issues.
“But how can this new ‘collaborative dialogue’ be possible when Mr. Putin has deliberately built a system based on corruption, injustice, falsification of elections, and violation of human rights and international law? How is it possible to have a discussion with Mr. Putin and not mention, not even once, the fate of Russian political prisoners, or the attacks against Russian journalists, artists, and environmentalists?” they said.
Scott McLarty, a spokesman for the Green Party, said he had forwarded the query from RFE/RL to Stein’s campaign representatives, but added that the Russians’ letter wasn’t entirely correct.
“I think the letter exaggerates Dr. Stein's alleged deference to President Putin,” he said in an e-mail.
Chirikova gained notoriety in Russia for her involvement in the fight over treasured forestlands north of Moscow that were slated to be partially razed for a new superhighway to St. Petersburg. For many, the protracted fight for the Khimki Forest turned into a litmus test for the ability of civil society activists to fight government-backed industrial projects.
Chirikova was awarded one of the world’s most prestigious awards, the Goldman Environmental Prize, in 2012.
Last year, she fled to Estonia, saying she feared Russian authorities would try to pressure her by levying steep taxes on her award, or other measures.
Kutepova, meanwhile, is an activist from a Ural Mountains town that has been polluted by radioactive waste from the notorious Mayak nuclear plant.
She, too, fled to Europe after her nongovernmental organization was labeled a “foreign agent” under a widely criticized law designed to hinder foreign funding of Russian civil society groups.