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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Denies Kyoto Delay Due to Cash

Russia is wavering over whether to approve the Kyoto environmental treaty because of serious worries, not because it is stalling to win more cash, a presidential administration source said Monday.

President Vladimir Putin dashed environmentalists' hopes two weeks ago by seeming to back away from the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to cut emissions of gases that cause global warming.

Russia has the power effectively to veto the treaty.

Many commentators saw Putin's comments as stalling for time in an effort to wring promises of cash investment from the European Union, Russia's top trade partner and a key backer of the pact.

"I do not know how clearly what he said was translated, but judging by the commentaries that appeared the words were interpreted as brinkmanship," the source, who declined to be identified, told reporters.

"This is not a game, it is a very serious question ... about the theory that [the protocol] is based on and a number of other questions such as the economic issue."

Among Russia's other concerns, he said, were doubts about the causes of global warming and the fact other large economies such as China and India do not have to cut emissions.

Under the terms of the treaty, nations that emit 55 percent of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, must approve it before it comes into force.

Top polluter the United States has backed out of the pact, agreed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997, leaving Russia -- responsible for 17 percent of emissions -- with the decisive vote.

Putin, addressing an environmental conference, said Moscow still needed time to check whether approving the treaty would benefit Russia and even joked that global warming could save Russians the expense of buying fur coats.

His speech seemed to contradict remarks he made to students in June, which were broadly in favor of the pact, and clashed with government statements that Russia would ratify the treaty.

But the source said Russia's position had not changed and that people should not over-interpret Putin's words.

"These are different audiences, and you can be different to different audiences," he said.

Because Russian industry has shrunk since quotas for emissions were set in 1990, the country has spare emissions capacity to trade as allowed by the pact, meaning it would in fact earn money if it decided to approve the treaty.

But the source said that this was only in the short term, and the Kremlin feared restricting emissions could harm Russia's economy in coming decades.