Friends of the Earth Russia: Solidarity for activist Evgeny Vitishko
February 18, 2015 will be a day of solidarity actions to commemorate the one year imprisonment of eco-activist Evgeny Vitishko. Evgeny Vitishko is serving three years in a penal colony settlement in Tambov region. In 2012, he was conditionally sentenced to three years for “damaging” an illegally installed fence belonging to the governor of Krasnodar province, Alexandr Tkachev. This conditional sentence was changed to actual imprisonment in December, 2013 by the Tuapse city court. On February 12, 2014 the court decision came into effect and on February 18, 2014 – at the height of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – Vitishko was sent to the penal colony settlement. Soon thereafter Vitishko was recognized as a political prisoner by the famous Russian Human Rights Center “Memorial” and as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Russian Social-Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia calls for solidarity actions on behalf of environmental prisoner Evgeny Vitishko, board member of RSEU regional group Environmental Watch on North Caucasus (EWNC).
One of the likely reasons for the prosecution is the report prepared by EWNC: “Sochi 2014: ten years without a right to law. How to build a ‘better world’”. The report is a culmination of the decade of work by environmental activists Evgeny Vitishko, Dmitry Shevchenko and Suren Ghazaryan. It contains a chronicle of the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi and its negative consequences for the environment.
The Russian Social-Ecological Union/Friends of the Earth Russia and Environmental Watch on North Caucasus are calling upon our individual members, organizations, friends, colleagues, supporters and all concerned people of the world to join the action.
A series of protests, informational events, and online actions are planned, in Russia and all around the globe . Also everyone can participate as an individual by singing the petition, sending a letter to Evgeny (in Russian), sharing Evgeny’s story with friends and colleagues via social media, and/or taking a photo of yourself with a poster and sharing it online.
Russian Social-Ecological Union/Friends of the Earth Russia is the largest Russian network of regional and local environmental NGOs, uniting non-governmental organizations to defend and protect Russia’s environment for 23 years.
RSEU statement on Evgeny Vitishko sentence
EWNC report about the destruction of nature “Sochi 2014: ten years without a right to law. How to build a ‘better world‘”
More information about the persecution of Evgeny Vitishko (in Russian)
+7 905 294 1063, firstname.lastname@example.org – Vitaly Servetnik, Russian Social-ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia
+7 918 211 2544, email@example.com – Dmitry Shevchenko, Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.
On November 13, 2011, activist group “Environmental Watch on North Caucasus” held a public inspection of the forest adjacent to the property owned by the head administration of the Krasnodar Territory Alexander Tkachev. In order to conduct an inspection, activists had to dismantle a section of a fence built illegally around the residence on the lands of the state forest reserve. During the inspection it was found that in order to construct the fence dozens of trees , including the Pitsynda pine, listed in the Red Book of Russia (a state document detailing rare and endangered species of flora and fauna), had been cut down. Illegal felling of trees listed in the Red Book is a criminal offence. It was also found that illegal work was carried out within the public shoreline of the Black Sea, which is now blocked by a solid concrete wall. In connection with violations of the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Water and Forest Code during the construction of the Tkachev residence, Environmental Watch sent several appeals to the law enforcement authorities of the Krasnodar Territory in 2011. Moreover, two letters describing the violations, in June and August of this year, were given in person to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. However,law enforcement agencies have taken no action against the owners of the residence. Instead, they began to pursue the civil society activists.
Evgeny Vitishko was recognized as a political prisoner by the Human Rights Center “Memorial” on February 13, 2014, as the prosecution will be charging Vitishko with an offence that did not take place. This is in violation of the right to a fair trial and demonstrates the use of disproportionate punishment.
Environmental Watch on North Caucasus repeatedly stressed that the prosecution of Vitishko for damaging the fence is politically motivated and unproven. As pointed out by the Russian Supreme Court in its judgment of 21 October, 2013, during the appeal against the sentence, to put stickers on an illegal fence in the forest can not be considered hooliganism, and in fact there is no evidence that the owner suffered significant damage.
The formal reason for the ending of probation was an alleged violation by Vitishko of the conditions of restrictions imposed on him. But these so-called violations are ridiculous. The prosecution claims there were three. The notice of the first one was issued to him when Vitishko went to Krymsk on an election campaign, and advance notice to the inspection was given. The second notice was issued when Vitishko appeared for his scheduled inspection, not on the day that he was ordered to show up. A third notice was issued after Vitishko’s visit to Krasnodar. In order to collect enough evidence to imprison Vitishko, he was held under constant surveillance by the authorities, his phones were tapped, and his whereabouts tracked by using mobile phone billing.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) refuses to see the Sochi connection in the case of Vitishko. The IOC thus relinquished responsibility for the persecution of Vitishko, and revealed that it’s officials do not have the competence to make public statements on this issue. Environmental Watch on North Caucasus believes that this may violate the IOC Olympic Charter.