A Russian NGO returned donation worth $159,000 from the Leonardo DiCaprio foundation.
The Sakhalin Environment Watch, an environmental protection organization in Russia’s Far East, said it would refuse foreign donations after it had been included in the “foreign agents” category in the NGO register.
"At the general meeting, the majority voted in favor of a decision to send back all the foreign funds that the organization has and to refuse to accept them in the future," Russia's Tass news agency quoted a statement from the Sakhalin Environment Watch. "Today’s morning these funds worth $159,000 were already sent back to the foundation and the organization has already sent the respective documents to the bank for returning the funds."
DiCaprio received worldwide recognition for his portrayal of Jack Dawson in the 1997 film “Titanic,” nominated for 14 Oscars and won 11. He established his environmental foundation in 1998. His foundation donated $159,000 for the Russian NGO in July for the protection of the Vostochny nature reserve and the nearby wild salmon rivers.
The Russian Justice Ministry earlier added Sakhalin to the list of “foreign agents,” a term typically associated with espionage implications in the country. The term is generally used for organizations funded by foreign donations. These organizations usually indulge in political activities.
“We are appalled by this decision and will appeal it,” Interfax quoted Sakhalin Director Dmitry Lisitsyn as saying Monday. “We have never been involved in any political activity, have never planned to and never will.”
Lisitsyn said the NGO chose ecological foundations to support the particular sphere of activity it wished to pursue. “This scheme works well, it makes organizations like ours independent in the full sense of the word,” he said.
DiCaprio’s foundation backs projects on protecting and preserving wildlife areas all over the world.