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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greens to Fight Ruling Barring Referendum

Environmentalists vowed Thursday to fight a decision by election authorities to throw out more than half a million signatures from a petition calling for a referendum that would bar imports of nuclear waste.

The Central Election Commission on Wednesday refused the petition, saying many of the signatures were not authentic.

Campaign group Greenpeace said the decision trampled on the rights of those who signed.

Environmental groups, led by Russia's chapter of Greenpeace, said last month they had gathered more than 2 million signatures needed to launch a referendum on whether to bar nuclear waste imports and maintain an independent environmental agency.

"Hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, whose signatures were not deemed to be genuine, are gathering to defend their right to express their will," Greenpeace said in a statement.

The statement said signers would appeal to local courts to challenge the decision and probably also to the Supreme Court.

It said according to legislation, court cases should start no later than in 10 days time.

The referendum bid was a response to the Kremlin's plans to merge its forestry, ecological and mining agencies, and also plans by the Nuclear Power Ministry to import nuclear waste to store or treat for other countries for a fee.

The referendum would guarantee environmental and forestry agencies remained independent and forbid the import of radioactive materials for storage or treatment.

The environmentalists say they gathered more than 2,490,000 signatures, but the commission only recognized 1,873,216.

"The result did not surprise us because the practice of free expression of will is not very common in this country," said Alexander Sidiakin, a lawyer for the group organizing the referendum bid. "But we are not going to surrender."

The statement said most of the signatures that were not recognized had been rejected on technicalities.