Kyoto treaty is an Auschwitz for Russia, says Putin's adviser

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The Independent Online

An adviser to Vladimir Putin has provoked outrage among Jewish groups by likening the apparently "deadly" economic consequences of the Kyoto climate change pact to what went on at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.

An adviser to Vladimir Putin has provoked outrage among Jewish groups by likening the apparently "deadly" economic consequences of the Kyoto climate change pact to what went on at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.

Andrei Illarionov, an influential economics adviser to the Kremlin, said that the pact was "an interstate Auschwitz" that Russia should reject out of hand if it is to maintain its impressive economic growth. The 1997 United Nations pact is viewed by many as the world's only chance to reduce global warming in a meaningful way and requires major industrialised countries to slash their greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Illarionov used controversial metaphors to describe why he thought Russia should abandon its commitment to the pact. Showing scant respect for the millions of Russians who perished in Stalin's infamously harsh prison system, he also likened the economic damage the pact would wreak to the Soviet gulag.

"In the beginning we wanted to call this agreement an interstate Gosplan [the central Soviet plans used to run the command economy] but then we understood that a Gosplan was much more humane [than Kyoto] and that we therefore had to call it an interstate Gulag," he told Russian media.

"At least in the Gulag inmates received roughly the same rations every day and they weren't reduced from day to day but under the Kyoto protocol the rations get smaller.

"In the final analysis we were forced to call the protocol an interstate Auschwitz."

Six million Jews lost their lives at Auschwitz and otherNazi concentration camps during the Second World War. Jewish groups yesterday strongly condemned Mr Illarionov's comments.

"His comments were insensitive and hurtful," Elan Steinberg, executive vice-president of the New York-based World Jewish Congress, said.

"One would think that a government official of Russia, which itself suffered so terribly under the Nazis, would not have spoken in such a manner.

"It is in effect a desecration of the memory of the victims of the Nazis. He should simply say he misspoke and move on."

Mr Steinberg conceded that Mr Illarionov's comments were off the cuff, and perhaps sardonic, but he said that such outbursts trivialised the Holocaust. "We will contact the relevant authorities, in this case the officials of the Russian government, to express our dismay."

Mr Illarionov, who is thought to be one of Russia's key policy makers on Kyoto, said the economic price his country would have to pay for being environmentally responsible was too high.

"The Kyoto protocol is a death treaty, no matter how strange that seems, because its main purpose is to stifle economic growth and economic activity in countries," he said.

In Brussels, a spokeswoman for the environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, said she was unaware of Mr Illarionov's comments but that Mrs Wallstrom was due in Moscow in a few weeks to try to secure Russian support for Kyoto.

The treaty is not legally binding because not enough countries have ratified it. This can only happen if the nations involved account for 55 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. But that critical mass has not yet been reached because of the refusal of America - the world's biggest polluter - to commit to the protocol.

Kyoto's supporters had been hoping that Russia, the world's fourth-largest polluter, would ratify it, but Moscow appears more interested in accelerating its economic growth, a process it believes will lift millions of ordinary Russians out of poverty.

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