Newly established environmental award is linked to Russian authorities

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Several prominent environmentalists have said no after being linked to a Russian backed award, established in memory of the late environmental campaigner Kurt Oddekalv.

A Russian journalist, Timofey Surovtsev and Ruben Oddekalv, who is the son of the activist Kurt Oddekalv, are behind the award. Ruben Oddekalv leads the so-called Green Warriors of Norway that his father founded in the 90s. He tells VG that the award is a Russian initiative, but the family has approved that they use Oddekalv’s name.

Oddekalv died earlier this year when he fell through the ice near his home near Bergen when trying to rescue his daughter’s dog.

The award’s Russian author, Timofey Surovtsev, is behind the Russian Pomor Environmental Center and runs the Barents News Agency. On his LinkedIn profile, Surovtsev is credited as a producer for Russian state TV channel RIA Novosti. In 2018, he took the initiative of forming a cross-border collaboration between campaigning environmental journalists across the High North.

“Surovtsev claims that he is deeply concerned about the lack of objective environmental journalism, and wants to stand up to the Norwegian media’s negative reports on environmental problems in Russia,” wrote journalist Atle Staalesen in the Barents Observer’s report on the lack of press freedom in Russia, earlier this year.

Among those nominated for the award is Sami Parliament President Silje Karine Muotka. She was also, without being informed about it, listed as a member of the award’s expert panel together with people from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Muotka declined the award and asked to be removed from the expert panel.

“Yes, they quickly removed my name. And of course I said no to this award. I did not want to be associated with it,” she told VG.

Another who had been listed without knowledge of it was the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature’s former leader, Silje Ask Lundberg. She had not heard of the award and also asked to be removed from the award’s expert advice.

“I started researching the organizations behind it. I discovered that there were people who worked for state-controlled media in Russia. Then I became suspicious,” said Ask Lundberg.

Therese Hugstmyr Woje, leader of Young Friends of the Earth Norway, also declined to receive the award. She justifies this with the fact that Surovtsev has said a lot that a negative image of Russia is being drawn in Norway, and that Russia must do more to fight back against Norwegian propaganda.

Ruben Oddekalv flatly denies that his Russian contacts use his father’s name as part of a propaganda campaign.

“There is nothing in our contact with the Russians for many years that indicates abuse,” said Oddekalv.

Among other recipients of the environmental award is Kenneth Bruvik, well-known environmentalist and host of the NRK program “The fantastic wild salmon”.


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