WWF and Greenpeace sent a letter to the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecution asking them to investigate a case of poaching by passengers of the Mi-171 helicopter, which crashed in the Russian Republic of Altai, on January 9.
Remains of several endangered animals were seen amongst the wreckage, including wild mountain sheep and argali. If it is proved that the animals were killed from the helicopter, it is an additional crime, as it is illegal to hunt any animal species from a helicopter, even if it is not endangered.
Local government officials
The passengers of the helicopter included President's plenipotentiary in the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin; the region's governmental Head of the Committee for the Protection of Fauna, Viktor Kaimin; and the region's Vice-president Anatoly Bannykh. Only four of the 11 people on board survived the crash.
"Poachers often remain unpunished in Russia. We hope that a prosecution in this case will be a warning for them and will help reduce poaching rates", says Vladimir Krever, WWF-Russia biodiversity expert.
Hunting animals listed in the Russian "Red Book" of endangered species is a crime in Russian law and is punishable with a fine of up to 200,000 rubles, corrective labour of up to 2 years, or by 6 months imprisonment. If it is proved that this was an abuse of an official position, the punishment can be more severe.