Russians Target Australian Campaigners 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



The leadership role of Australian campaigners in the struggle to eradicate the asbestos hazard in the Asia-Pacific region has not gone unnoticed. The latest newsletter (April 2024) issued by Uralasbest – Russia’s second biggest asbestos conglomerate – condemned Australia for its “sophisticated” efforts to “destroy the chrysotile (white) asbestos industry” via the UN’s Rotterdam Convention and its attempt “to add two negative paragraphs on chrysotile asbestos to the text of the Resolution on Chemicals” at the most recent meeting of the UN Environment Assembly.1 A post last week on the Facebook page of the Cambodian Ministry of Land Planning, Architecture and Construction will almost certainly further inflame Russia’s asbestos lobbyists:

“The Ministry of Land Planning, Architecture and Construction (of Cambodia) will work with the Australian Government to completely eliminate the use of asbestos in construction and urban planning to improve citizens’ quality of life. The leadership of the Ministry of Land Planning, Architecture and Construction spoke in a meeting with the representatives of Australia Asbestos and Silica Safety and Eradication [Agency] (ASSEA) led by His Excellency Pablo Kang, the Head of the Australian Embassy in Cambodia on the morning of May 16, 2024.”2


Front page of the April 2024 issue of the Uralasbest newsletter: the “Asbestos Worker”.

Alongside the attacks on Australia, the April issue of the Uralasbest newsletter (dubbed the “Asbestos Worker”)3 featured positive company news and personal testimonies of smiling workers with front page headlines such as:

  • “Young people choose Uralasbest” (about Uralasbest excavator driver Roman Zemov);
  • “Work for life” (detailing the company’s latest advertising campaign in Asbestos City utilizing the strapline “Work for life”);
  • “Distinguished guests at the plant” (describing the March 26 visit to the Uralasbest facility by a delegation from Cambodia to learn about the “safe production and use of chrysotile asbestos”).4

The tone and content of Uralasbest’s monthly communiqués – dozens of which can be accessed covering the years 2015-2024 – are reminiscent of “the Firefly,” a 20th century publication by Britain’s largest asbestos conglomerate: Turner & Newall (T&N). According to historian Geoffrey Tweedale:

“Workers were also kept in the dark and Turner and Newall did little to publicize the health hazards of asbestos. The quarterly staff magazine, Firefly, which was launched in 1952, contained no mention of asbestos diseases or any health warnings during its entire publication run until 1968… in its Christmas 1952 issue Firefly profiled on its cover and inside story Roberts’ (J.W. Roberts, a T&N subsidiary) longest-serving employee, Bill Jagger, a 47-year-old storekeeper. It did not mention why he was working in the stores – he had been suspended in 1946 with asbestosis. The next issue carried brief news of his death in January 1953 from asbestosis and lung cancer – another fact not mentioned.” 5

To say that the mindset of Russian asbestos propagandists is skewed is to state the obvious. Their attempts to create alternative realities are never-ending; in one such fantasy, the supply of Russian asbestos is a life-saving humanitarian gesture of significant benefit to poorer populations. Where health and safety campaigners see greed and malfeasance, industry lobbyists see a multimillion-ruble cash cow.

Considering the attitude and objectives of the team responsible for “the Asbestos Worker,” one can but wonder how coming issues will spin this month’s (May 2024) Australian outreach initiatives in Laos and Vietnam – the purpose of which was to “provide clinical training to local health professionals to improve the diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases and build in-country capacity to manage the ongoing diagnosis of these diseases.”6


Asbestos Medical Training Initiative in Vientiane, Laos, May 8, 2024. Photo courtesy of APHEDA.


Australian and Vietnamese experts and medical staff in front of the Lung Hospital in Hanoi, May 15, 2024. Photo courtesy of APHEDA (Enlarge image).

If I were asked to predict the likely outcome, I’d venture a guess that none of the sessions or contributions made by the experts, researchers and clinicians in Vientiane and Hanoi during the Spring 2024 two-week Australian mission would be reported in the pages of the Asbestos Worker. If they were, readers might question why doctors and scientists in those countries needed medical training at all considering Uralasbest’s reassurances that the manufacture and use of asbestos products are “safe.”7 Why indeed?

May 20, 2024


1 16 апреля - Международный день защиты хризотила [April 16 - International Day for the Protection of Chrysotile]. Uralasbest newsletter the ‘Asbestos Worker,’ published on April 4. 2024, p. 2.
Outcomes adopted at the sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6). March 1, 2024.,The%20sixth%20session%20of%20the%20UN%20Environment%20Assembly

2 Facebook page of the Cambodian Ministry of Land Planning, Architecture and Construction. May 16, 2024.

3 Uralasbest newsletter digest. Accessed May 16, 2024.

4 Uralasbest April 2024 Newsletter.

5 Tweedale, G. Magic Mineral to Killer Dust. 2000.

6 Meet the ADDRI A-Team. May 7, 2024.

7 Uralasbest April 2024 Newsletter.



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑