WASHINGTON Russian and international environmental organizations urged the World Bank to halt all loans to Russia until President Vladimir Putin re-establishes the State Committee for Environmental Protection and the Federal Forest Service.
In a letter to bank President James Wolfensohn, the groups also questioned continuing a $60 million bank loan to the forest service that was made five days after the agency was dissolved.
Putin dissolved the environment committee and forest service May 17. The committee was responsible for monitoring all aspects of the environment except for nuclear safety.
In an apparent cost-cutting move, environmental protection was placed under the Ministry of Natural Resources, which helps enterprises make the most of Russia's mining, oil and timber resources.
"As president of the world's largest public development financial institution, the capricious abolishment of these vital agencies must be of concern to you," the letter said.
It was signed by 67 mainly Russian organizations but also included international groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club of San Francisco.
Among those signing were Alexei Yablokov, an environmental adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Nikitin, a former Navy officer who was imprisoned and later released after speaking out about the Russian fleet's handling of nuclear waste.
"We urge you to issue an immediate moratorium on all new World Bank approvals for projects in Russia and suspend disbursements for all current Russian projects that impact the environment until the ramifications of these agencies' abolishment is fully known and until these agencies are fully restored," the letter said.
It said representatives of the organizations that signed wanted to meet Wolfensohn to discuss the issues.