Russian officials cleared of poaching charges (shooting argali from helicopter in Altai)
The defendants did not deny poaching but blamed the act on those who died, including the Kremlin’s envoy to the Duma, Alexander Kosopkin. The judge sided with the defense, ruling that prosecutors failed to present proof that the three defendants actually shot the animals. Prosecutors promised to appeal the verdict.
The WWF said the ruling de-facto authorizes poaching by top officials. “We want an official recognition from the courts that there's been a deliberate violation of the law by high-ranking officials,”Aleksey Vaisman, CiTES/TRAFFIC Programme coordinator of WWF-Russia. There is no point in them pointing fingers at each other, they are equally guilty, regardless of who was shooting and who was not – that's what the law states.”
Illegal helicopter-hunting favored by some wealthy hunters remains the threat for endangered argali in Altai. WWF Altai – Sayan Programme intends to work on it from both sides. This summer the public inspection’s rangers of Kosh – Agach are planned to disseminate specific note-books published by WWF to the local communities with all relevant contacts to inform on illegal helicopter hunting case. Local communities are willing to be involved in reporting on such violations as argali is a totem animals of altai indigenous people. Moreover the leaflets for the helicopter fighters are published to inform on the legal consequences of illegal helicopter hunting.