In January 2022, Russian Social Ecological Union (RSEU) / Friends of the Earth Russia experts recorded 16 new episodes of pressure against more than 18 environmental defenders in 11 regions of Russia. In 2 regions, the situation developed in 2 episodes.
Arkhangelsk defender of Shies Andrei Khristoforov, was sentenced to a year of suspended imprisonment with a one-year deferral of execution. In Novokubansk, the author of a petition in defense of the Lago-Naki plateau, Sergei Strogonov, was detained, charged under an administrative “extremist” article and arrested for five days. Defenders of the Trinity Forest in Moscow reported attacks and beatings for three days in a row.
Episodes of pressure on environmental activists who oppose the cutting down of trees and the development of green areas were recorded in 4 regions
- In Moscow, on January 29, 30 and 31, 2022, private security companies and loggers attacked the defenders of the Trinity Forest. The journalists recorded on camera how the head of the SMERSH private security company, Viktor Butevich, shouted to the workers: “They drank her leg,” giving the order to cut down trees together with the activists. Journalist Ivan Shchekin, a correspondent for the Green Moscow publication, was burned on his face by the contents of a pepper spray.
- The administration of the Timiryazev Academy in Moscow threatened students who took part in pickets against the development of the territory of the university.
- In Novosibirsk, on January 15, 2022, a deputy of the Council of Deputies in the city of Novosibirsk, Alexander Mukharytsin, was detained because of the organisation of a national gathering on November 13, 2021, for the preservation of the public garden. The deputy was left at the police station for two days until the trial. On January 17, 2022, the Central District Court of Novosibirsk found Mukharytsin guilty of violating the rules for holding a public event (Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation) and fined him 10,000 rubles. On January 20, 2022, the Oktyabrsky District Court of Novosibirsk fined another deputy, Sergei Konko, deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region, for the same action for 10,000 rubles.
- In Khimki, Moscow Region, after a meeting in defense of the Grachevka River on January 23, 2022, environmental defender Alexei Dmitriev was detained. A protocol was drawn up against him under the “covid” article (Article 20.6.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation), he was allegedly without a mask during public control near the Grachevka River. On January 30, 2022, the environmental defender was detained again for holding a public event in the form of a meeting; a protocol was drawn up against him under Part 2 of Art. 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation. The court session was scheduled for January 31, 2022, but did not take place, as the court was closed “due to the sanitary and epidemiological situation.”
- A resident of Verkhnyaya Pyshma, Sverdlovsk Region, Kira Vostretsova, who is among the activists to save the forest park where developers want to build high-rise buildings, was called to the police. According to the activist, the security forces wanted to get an explanation from her about the money that the initiative group collects to pay for the services of a lawyer.
Pressure on environmental activists against landfills recorded in 2 regions
- The Arkhangelsk defender of Shies Drevarkh the Enlightened (Andrey Khristoforov) was sentenced to a year of suspended imprisonment with a one-year deferral of execution. The Ust-Vymsky District Court of the Komi Republic found the activist guilty in the case of using violence against a representative of the authorities (Article 318 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) for an incident on a train en route to Shies station.
- In the Komi Republic, a court fined environmental activist Aleksey Semyonov 10,000 rubles for a one-person picket on December 14, 2021, against the construction of a landfill in the village of Izhma, Izhma District.
- The defense of Kolomna activist Vyacheslav Yegorov received an appeal from the prosecutor’s office, which demands tougher punishment. The opponent of the landfill in Kolomna, Vyacheslav Yegorov, was sentenced under the “Dadin” article (Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) to a year and three months in a general regime colony.
Pressure on defenders of Specially Protected Natural Areas
- In Novokubansk, the author of a petition in defense of the Lago-Naki plateau, Sergey Strogonov, was detained. He was charged under an administrative “extremist” article. Aproximately twelve years ago, the song “Smoke” by the Grotto group was posted on his VKontakte page, which was banned only in 2016. The Novokubansky District Court of the Krasnodar Territory arrested the activist for five days.
- Aleksey Denisenko, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Chelyabinsk Region from United Russia, filed a lawsuit against activist Vladimir Konev for the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation. In his program on YouTube, Konev said that Denisenko has a bathhouse on a pontoon in the middle of Lake Uvildy, which is a natural monument. Denisenko demands that videos “discrediting” him be removed from the internet, a refutation be published, and 200,000 rubles be recovered from the activist as compensation for moral damage.
The non-profit organisation “Civil Initiative Against Ecocrime” in the Krasnodar Territory was excluded from the register of foreign agents . On October 25, 2019, the Civil Initiative against Ecocrime was entered into the register of NGOs performing the functions of a “foreign agent”.
In the Republic of Bashkortostan, the case against the activist of the public movement “Stop Kambarka” Tagir Kagarmanov was dismissed. He was accused of “violating the law in the field of ensuring the sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population”.
In the Republic of Komi, the republican “Center for Information Technologies” registered a non-profit organization named “Committee for Saving the Pechora,” which repeats the name of a well-known environmental organisation formed back in 1989. The actual “Committee for the Salvation of Pechora” repeatedly tried to obtain official status, but officials constantly refused this. Environmental defenders suggest that the spoiler organisation will be used to discredit the activities of independent environmental activists.
RSEU experts have been monitoring pressure on environmentalists since 2012. RSEU demands to stop pressure on environmentalists, to investigate all cases of attacks and persecution of environmental activists. A necessary measure for their protection is the proper investigation of environmental violations, with resistance to which cases of persecution of activists are associated. To prevent conflict situations, free access to environmental information, broad public participation in solving environmentally significant issues, and real consideration of the opinions of environmentalists and citizens should be ensured.
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Cover photo: Kuban activist, author of a petition in defense of the Lago-Naki plateau, Sergey Strogonov, was arrested for five days.