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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gadfly Stings the Boating Elite

Admiral ClubOleg Mitvol is refocusing his attention from illegal dachas to dirty boats.
The owners of Moscow's boat clubs could soon find themselves in perilously deep water, as state investigators turn their attention to environmental damage to the city's waterways.

Spearheaded by businessman turned environmental crusader Oleg Mitvol, the crackdown is being carried out by the Federal Service for the Inspection of Natural Resources Use.

Mitvol, who first made a name for himself through his efforts to raze dachas built on protected land close to Moscow's reservoirs, is deputy head of the service.

In a stunt to kick off the probe, Mitvol himself led a group of inspectors and reporters on a cruise around boat clubs in the Moscow region.

"There are about 50,000 small boats and over 200 docks in the Moscow region. Combined, they do real damage to the environment," Mitvol said by telephone.

On the investigation's first day, the inspection squad examined five of the city's 33 large boat clubs and found violations at most of them, he said.

"Our suspicions have been proven. Boats are being fueled straight from cans. Television cameras have filmed large oily spots on the water," Mitvol said, adding that another major violation included flushing toilets straight into the water.

Many clubs do not have the correct documentation, and their directors will be summoned on Thursday to face the inspection service.

If the documents are not provided, Mitvol's office will turn to prosecutors, he said.

The Admiral Club, one of the city's private boat clubs, was among the locations chosen for Tuesday's opening round of inspections. Oksana Vilchenko, who works in the club's marketing division, said that the scale of Mitvol's operation was unprecedented and that, as member's of one of the area's larger clubs, the Admiral Club's clients had access to more sophisticated systems for refueling and emptying their facilities.

Mitvol -- whose businesses in the 1990s ran the gauntlet from arms to food to media -- took his post at the Natural Resources Ministry more than a year ago.

Investigations now in the pipeline look likely to take him further afield.

Future targets for his investigations include illegal construction in the area around Lake Baikal and illegal logging in Khabarovsk.

Later this week, another new probe will look into illegal construction in state-protected forests. "Instead of walking and breathing the air in the state forest, someone chose to build private residences there," he said.

"What Mitvol does is very positive, but he should have started with violations by the industry, which causes more damage," said Ivan Blokov, program director at Greenpeace Russia.

Separately, Mitvol said Tuesday that the Federal Security Service had found bugging devices in his office.

Mitvol said he could not say who had planted the devices in his office.

"There must be many who would wish to listen in, from those building around Baikal to bears on Kamchatka," he said.