Russian eco-activist gets 3 years in penal colony

| 17th February 2014
Image: Caucasian Knot / .
Image: Caucasian Knot / .
Evgeni Vitishko fought against the illegal occupation of protected forest and shore line by Krasnodar's governor Alexander Tkachev, who used the land for construction of his private estate. Now he is paying the price.
Unlike murderers and thieves, who can usually get away with a fine, activists are prosecuted seriously.

Evgeni Vitishko is an activist and a member of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus. He was first convicted for hooliganism in 2012 and sentenced for 3 years of suspended sentence.

He and a fellow ecologist Sergey Gazarian allegedly broke into the construction site and spray painted the fence around the 'summer cottages' of Krasnodar's governor Alexander Tkachov.

In fact they were exercising their rights to walk on designated public land, a forest reserve, where fences and buildings had been illegally erected.

On December 20, Tuapsinsk Court ruled to convert a 3 year suspended sentence to prison time due to "repeated violation of the terms of agreement" of his previous sentence.

Appeal has just been rejected

Krasnodar's Court has now rejected an appeal from Mr Vitishenko, who is going to spend 3 years in penal colony.

 "This sentence is continuation of the recent trend of fabrication of criminal cases against environmental activists, who expose the illegal actions of politicians and businessman", says director of WWF-Russia, Igor Chestin.

"Unlike murderers and thieves, who can usually get away with a fine, activists are prosecuted seriously."

"Remember for instance illegally convicted Suren Gazan or Konstantin Rubahin. who was illegally searched. Evgeny's case is yet another reminder that at the first suspicionof prosecution Russian ecologists should leave for a country with a rule of law."

IOC, where are you?

In the days preceding the Olympics, seven more activists were arrested. 

WWF has been constructively engaged with the Olympic movement for nearly two decades, following the International Olympic Committee's adoption of 'environment' as one of the "three pillars of Olympism" in 1994.

In December of 2013, WWF and other Russian environmental organizations requested International Olympic Committee to publicly support the prosecuted activists.

Their weak response "made it clear that this committee is willing to ignore the violation of human rights just as it ignored the corruption", says WWF Russia.

And now - another eco-activist is sentenced

Sochi Magistrates have punished the Sochi activist David Khakim with 30 hours of correctional works, for holding a picket in defence of Evgeny Vitishko.

As explained by lawyer Alexander Popkov in Sochi, a presidential decree requires even solo pickets to coordinate with the authorities.

David Khakim plans to appeal against the decision of the court.


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