During 1996, the continuing critical national economic situation was a major impediment for effective implementation of relevant international environmental agreements and national regulations. In addition, the perpetual restructuring of the government resulted in transformation of the Ministry of the Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources into the State Committee for the Protection of the Environment. Some of the powers of the former Ministry were transferred to the newly established Ministry of Natural Resources. Although the Environmental Committee retained its position as a principal agency responsible for international environmental cooperation, these developments undermined its status within the governmental structure and had unfavourable repercussions for its day-to-day functioning.
On 3 April, the government decided to adopt the 1994 Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety. On 8 May, Russia signed the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, which is expected to be ratified by the Parliament in 1997.
The seventh session of the Inter-State Ecological Council (IEC) was convened in October in Kazakhstan. The representatives of four CIS members-- Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, and Russia--took part in the meeting. Continuing financial difficulties prevented other members from attending the session. The IEC reviewed and approved several draft agreements on, inter alia, cooperation on information concerning ecology and environmental protection, on rational utilisation and protection of the transboundary water resources, and on environmental monitoring. Russia accepted the Agreement on the List of Rare and Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (the Red Book Agreement) which the CIS states had adopted in 1995.
Two new environmental cooperation agreements were signed by Russia, namely with Yugoslavia and France. The agreements follow the traditional