Support The Moscow Times!

Russian Activists Barred From Observing Captive Whales’ Release – Greenpeace

freerussianwhales / Vkontakte

Russian authorities have violated an agreement to allow animal rights activists to oversee the release of captive whales back into the wild on Thursday, Greenpeace Russia has said.

Russia began last month the release of almost 100 captive whales, caught last year for commercial sale, with the return of two killer and six beluga whales to their natural habitat near the Pacific. Despite environmental groups’ claims that the practice risks the animals’ lives, research scientists vowed to continue releasing the whales in batches every two weeks.

Thursday’s transportation of three more whales is, like the first round, being conducted without outside observation, Greenpeace Russia said in an online statement.

“The secret release and [the research scientists’] unwillingness to share the details of the animals’ release, [which is being] followed by the entire world, raise concerns… and speculation,” Greenpeace environmentalist Roman Vazhenkov said.

The Russian Research Institute for Fisheries and Oceanology which is handling the releases told The Moscow Times that the whales' release was open to all, but that observers were required to view the release from afar.

“The animals would become stressed if there were strangers,” the institute's press secretary, Alexei Smorodov, said. “There is a hill from which everything is visible. Journalists and film crews were there. There were no violations on our part.

The plight of the animals, which were kept in Russia's Far East in cramped enclosures likened by Russian media to a whale "prison," sparked an international outcry and prompted the Kremlin to intervene.

But the animals’ release — which saw them transported for six days across 1,800 kilometers — has been criticized by Greenpeace and international scientists. They said the process had been rushed, conducted in secret and may have put the animals at risk of dying.

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

As we approach the holiday season, please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world’s largest country.