As director of the SEU’s Coordination and Information Center from 1987 to 1992, Zabelin created a computer network that fostered cooperation among environmentalists scattered across the former Soviet Union, forming a cohesive environmental movement.
From 1991 to 1993, Zabelin also worked as special assistant to Alexei Yablokov, Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s Counsellor on Ecology and Health, where he drafted environmental protection laws. He was instrumental in establishing NGO rights to monitor the condition of natural resources in Russia and to legally challenge those who violate environmental laws. In 1993, Zabelin left the government in order to return to full-time work with SEU. In 1995 Zabelin drafted a document on sustainable development in Russia, which was discussed as an alternative to official policies.