Putin advisor agrees to meet with Russian Fridays For Future climate activists, convey their demands to Putin
In a significant step forward from outdoor individual pickets, young Russian climate activists say they have met with an advisor to Vladimir Putin at the COP25 summit in Madrid. Arshak Makichyan, one of the movement’s coordinators, wrote to the press service for Greenpeace Russia saying the advisor agreed to meet with the group again at the end of December, after which he would convey the group’s demands to Putin himself. Makichyan later identified the administration official to Meduza as Ruslan Edelgeriev, the president’s special representative for climate issues.
According to Fridays For Future Russia (FFF), the meeting took place between Edelgeriev and two young activists: Makichyan and Natalia Aleksandrova, who is currently studying in Europe. FFF is the global school strike movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Her Russian counterparts say that upon their return to Moscow after December 20, they will consult with experts from other ecology- and climate-focused nonprofits “in order to convey a strong collective position” during their second hoped-for meeting with Edelgeriev.
In a conversation with Meduza, Makichyan said officials from Russia’s presidential administration reached out to set up a meeting after activists approached an unidentified official and gave him their contact information. “There wasn’t an open dialogue — [Edelgeriev] didn’t answer our questions directly,” the activist said. However, he expressed hope that subsequent meetings would be “more productive” due to increasing domestic support on climate issues. The conversation reportedly lasted slightly more than an hour. Meduza is currently attempting to reach Edelgeriev for comment.
Sasha Shugay, the FFF coordinator for Novosibirsk, and Tatiana Shauro of the Climate Action Network also joined Aleksandrova and Makichyan today for a march through the COP25 conference along with about 300 other young activists from outside Russia. The group pointed to continued inaction on the climate crisis at the summit as the reason for the march. All of the activists were subsequently forced to leave the summit despite support from other COP25 attendees. The activists say they plan to continue using public protest tactics both in Madrid and in Russia.
Prior to the COP25 conference, Russian youth movements attempting to draw attention to the climate crisis had struggled amid prohibitive assembly laws and arrests. Thunberg’s now-famous address at the United Nations was received with scorn in many Russian circles and even among many opposition figures, leaving further social obstacles in the way of local activists.
Scientists have warned that the climate crisis is likely to cause widespread social collapse within the lifetimes of current generations without an immediate, systemic shift away from fossil fuels. Russia’s own Environmental Ministry warned last year that disastrous environmental events are already taking lives in Russia at an escalating rate. Nonetheless, Russia currently occupies fourth place in global rankings of greenhouse gas emissions, and its government has repressed climate activism.