October 7, 2014

Moscow Continues Crackdown on Environmental Activists

Paul Goble

The Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, which attracted the attention of the Russian authorities for its exposure of Moscow’s violation of environmental legislation in advance of the Sochi Olympics, has suffered yet another attack: Last week, police in Krasnodar arrested one of its members, Tatyana Borisova.

 Elena Malina, a rights activist there, told the Bellona organization that the police had put Borisova in handcuffs and confiscated her telephone, having accused her of disobeying the police. Malina said that she believes this action has taken place because of the Formula I race that is to take place in Sochi (bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2014/borisova_ecovahta).

 Just as the authorities did in the run up to and during the Sochi Olympiad, so too now, she continued, the authorities “are trying to isolate those who are not well-intentioned from the point of view of the powers that be.”

 By their own statements, the authorities appear to confirm this.  According to a post on the site of the Krasnodar procuracy, “complications in the operational situation require the adoption of additional measures for the activation of additional measures by law enforcement organs to identify [and block] provocateurs and extremists” of various kinds.

 The proximate cause of Borisova’s arrest almost certainly was her personal picket in front of the Krasnodar administration building in defense of Yevgeny Vistishko, who remains in prison for his role in exposing the illegal construction around the dacha of the local governor. The police did not block her protest but instead arrested her later.

 Other activists in the region have also been arrested. Darya Polyudova has been detained on charges of separatism, and several days ago Sergey Titarenko, another Krasnodar activist, has been arrested as well.

 Meanwhile, the Russian authorities have not forgotten about Vitishko who continues his struggle against violations of environmental law and human rights from his jail cell. On the one hand, his jailors have continued to impose new restrictions on him, but on the other, prosecutors have appealed but the courts have rejected appeals for leniency in his case (bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2014/1412025649.55).

 Whether such appeals are simply for show or whether differences between prosecutors and the judges are real is a question that has not yet been answered – unless of course the arrests of Borisova, Polyudova and Titarenko can be viewed as the kind of answer that Russian officials are most inclined to give either to intimidate or mislead.







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