Environmental Defenders Under Threat

Jun 8, 2020

Russian Social-Ecological Union (RSEU) has been monitoring the persecution of environmental defenders since 2012. RSEU has reported during the first 5 months of 2020, 63 new attacks were recorded, concerning more than 170 eco-activists, groups, and NGOs, in 20 regions of Russia.

From January to May 2020 at least 10 environmental activists were subjected to attacks, property damage and threats (7 persons for January-May 2019). It is known that 4 new criminal cases were opened (5 cases in January-May 2019). In relation to 98 activists administrative offense reports were drawn up (110 in January-May 2019), including 41 stay-home regime violation reports.

Most pressure counts were registered in Moscow (17), Bashkortostan (8), Arkhangelsk Region (8), Tatarstan (7) and Moscow Region (4). The basic pressure counts are traditionally related to problems of waste handling, extraction of natural resources and construction projects:

  • The construction of landfill sites (9 counts at the station Shiyes of Arkhangelsk Region, 1 in Povarovo of Moscow Region and 1 near the farmstead Vesyoly of Rostov Region),
  • The construction of waste incineration plants (7 in Osinovo settlement in Tatarstan and 1 in Timokhovo of Moscow Region),
  • Plans for the development of Kushtau shihan (mountain) for extraction of soda in Bashkortostan (8),
  • Cutting down of gardens (4 in Festivalnaya Street in Moscow for the construction of Residential Estate “Festival Park 2”, 3 in the vicinity of Ramenki in Moscow for the construction of Residential Estate “Legasi”, 2 in Vologda for the construction of a day-care center),
  • The construction of the South-Eastern bypass through the landfill site of the Moscow Plant of Polymetals (4),
  • Plans for the construction of a plant for processing of highly toxic waste in Kambarka, Udmurtia (2).

There is continual pressure on public associations. The public organisation “Bashkort”, which advocated the defense of Kushtau shihan in Bashkortostan, were declared extremist on 22 May. On 3 March, the Moscow City Court dismissed an appeal from the “Centre for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North” against the actions of the Ministry of Justice of Russia, resulting in the disbanding of the organisation in November 2019. In relation to the organization “Citizens’ Initiative Against Environmental Crime,” on 15 May the court sustained a fine of 300 thousand rubles for the violation of the “foreign agents” law. In Kaliningrad there is an ongoing criminal prosecution of the director of “Ecodefense!” Aleksandra Korolyova, pursuant to the article on malicious non-compliance with a court decision.

New criminal cases opened include: 

  • The opponent of the South-Eastern bypass section construction Aleksandr Kolotov is in the status of a witness in the criminal case on damaging a radiation meter of RADON company,
  • The opponent of the construction of a logistic center in Chuvashia Liliya Govorova is accused of application of force to a representative of authority,
  • Krasnodar Krai Sergey Pinyagin is accused of willful moderately severe bodily harm to a yard-keeper who attacked the campaigner’s wife,
  • The opponent of the construction of a machine-building plant in Kazan Aleksandr Davydov is accused of a “deliberately false denunciation”.

In Chelyabinsk there is an ongoing criminal prosecution of the campaigners from the movement “Stop GOK” (Stop Mining Complex). Vasily Moskovets is tried for instigation to hooliganism by previous concert and malicious destruction of property on hooligan motives. Gamil Asatullin is tried for hooliganism perpetrated by a group of persons and attempted malicious destruction of property. In Arkhangelsk Region five defenders of Shiyes are tried: Valery Dzyuba, Vyacheslav Grigoryants, Andrey Starkovsky, Denis Drobinin, for “self-will”. Valery Dzyuba tried for grievous bodily harm and Mikhail Gabov continues to be tried pursuant to the article “Assault and Battery”. The campaigner of the movement “Kurgan-Antiuran” Lyubov Kudryashova is accused of calling for terrorism, and in January her home was searched.

The largest administrative pressure count was the arrest of 63 people in opposition of the South-Eastern bypass section construction. Reports on participation in an unapproved action and on disobedience to the requirements of police officers were drawn for each of the arrested.

In April and May drawing stay-home regime violation reports became a widespread way of pressure – since 1 April they almost entirely substituted reports on violation of procedures for conduct of public events and resistance to demands of police officers.

“The attacks on environmental defenders are systemic: unsolved environmental problems lead to conflicts, and conflicts are accompanied by the persecution of eco-activists. The global environmental crisis leads to an increase of human rights violations and attacks on environmental defenders. Russia is no exception. Only a systemic change in the relationship between humans and nature will solve these problems”,

Vitaly Servetnik, RSEU co-chair.

RSEU demands:

  • To stop the pressure on environmental defenders.
  • To investigate all cases of attacks to and harassment of environmental defenders and eco-activists. A necessary measure to protect them is the proper investigation of environmental violations, the resistance of which involves cases of prosecution.
  • To prevent conflicts, free access to information and broad public participation on environmentally significant issues should be ensured.

For more information contact:
Vitaly Servetnik,
Russian Social-Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia
Email: vitservetnik@gmail.com

Additional information:
On the situation in January-May 2019 (in Russian)
Annual reports on situation for environmentalists in Russia (in English) 
List of eco-NGOs recognized as foreign agents from 2014 to 2020 (in English)

View the original post here: rusecounion.ru

*Cover photo: Private Security Company on Shies, March 2019. Photographer: Alexander Yesipenok.