Altaigate scandal

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The Altaigate Scandal is the name given to the events surrounding the 9 January 2009 disappearance of an Mi-171 helicopter in the south of the Altai Republic. The helicopter contained several VIP passengers. The helicopter was found as a result of large-scale rescue operations on 11 January 2009. It was discovered on the Sailughem mountain ridge 8 kilometers from the border between Russia and Mongolia. Seven people were killed, 2 severely injured and 2 slightly injured. Among those dead were the Representative of the Russian President to the State Duma Mr. Alexander Kosopkin, the Head of the Altai Republic Game Management Agency Mr. Kaimin, two pilots, and one locally famous musician. Among the survivors were Deputy Governor of the Altai Republic Mr. Anatoly Bannykh, the second pilot and two other, one of which was heavily injured.[1]

Game hunting allegation[edit]

When the first photos were published from the crash site, some conservationists claimed that the Mi-171 helicopter crashed as a result of illegal game hunting straight from the helicopter. This type of hunting is forbidden by law Criminal Code of Russia Article 258. Conservationists claimed that the game being hunted would have been protected animals listed in the Red Data Book, which is a legally binding, full protection species fact sheet in Russian,[2] as well as the IUCN Red List Argali IUCN Factsheet.

There have been calls to the President of Russia and the State Chief Prosecutor to launch an investigation into this alleged case of poaching and corruption, which led to the fatal helicopter crash [2]. So far the prosecutors have investigated only the technical reasons of the helicopter crash despite immediate appeals from Russian conservationists and public. Only on 21 April, the criminal investigation on poaching started as well as legal notice of the Main Investigations Committee of the Chief State Prosecutor Office.

Altaigate Scandal development was reported on by the local Altapress Agency.[3]

Open letter[edit]

Representatives of 23 NGOs from the Altai Republic wrote a joint open letter to the President of Russia, the Chief Prosecutor, to the Head of State Duma and a number of other organisations in which they made demands regarding an investigation into poaching and possible top-level corruption. The NGOs also demanded that investigation findings be shared with the public.

Public reaction[edit]

WWF Russia and Greenpeace collected over 6000 verified signatures from the Russian public [3] as part of a petition demanding criminal investigation on poaching and corruption. Despite the legal obligation that the criminal investigation on a reported case should be started within three days, there has been no public information or official announcements.

Timeline[edit]

Opinions on Altaigate[edit]

Alexei Vaisman from WWF Russia:

Over the last decade, Altai has become a place where helicopter hunting has become rather common. They shoot directly from the helicopter and then land to pick up any trophies. We don’t want anyone to be imprisoned. The main aim of our actions is to make a court give an official legal assessment of what happened. Regional officials often treat federal officials to free hunting trips. It’s not a bribe, it’s to make good relations, to get additional money to the region from the federal center.[4]

Sergey Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council of Russia in his blog: "I still believe that investigation has to consider all (I stress - all!) the circumstances of this case and make full legal assessment. This case indeed raises many questions..." Source in Russian: citation from the blog of Mr. Mironov

References[edit]