“ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH ON NORTH CAUCASUS”
May 30, 2015
EVGENY VITISHKO: “I CAN’T SURVIVE ANOTHER SIX MONTHS OF IMPRISONMENT.”
The attempt by greens to meet with the environmental prisoner, Evgeny Vitishko,
ended with a scandalous refusal by the penal colony leadership
to allow representatives of Crude Accountability to visit him
On May 21, 2015, activists from Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus and the American environmental nonprofit organization Crude Accountability traveled to the penal colony No. 2 (KP-2) in Tambov region in order to visit the environmental prisoner, Evgeny Vitishko, who is serving a three year sentence at the penal colony http://ewnc.org/node/18262.
In an order that has nothing to do with justice, Evgeny was imprisoned for his participation in an action, during which an illegal fence, which surrounds the Black Sea Dacha of Alexander Tkachev was printed with graffiti saying, “Sania is a thief,” and “The forest belongs to everyone.” This seriously offended Tkachev, who was the governor of Kuban at the time and presently is the Minister of Agriculture of Russia.
KP-2 is located in a distant corner of Tambov Oblast in the village of Sadovaya in Kirsanovsk district. The road to the colony lies along completely broken down roads, which are so bad in some places that it is better to drive parallel to the road than on the road itself. The colony greeted the environmental activists with a completely idiotic sign, which read, “This area is our Tambov,” alongside the sign that read, “Penal Colony No.2, of the Penal Administration of Russia for the Tambov Region,” which immediately created the impression that this is what Tambov is famous for. Near the stand was a barrier, which blocked cars from driving any further. Visitors to the colony must carry anything they are bringing to the prisoners 800 meters down the road. Clearly this was designed to remind both visitors and prisoners who is the boss. Furthermore, next to the colony administration, where the visitor waiting room is located, is a large and empty parking lot. Across from the administration building of the colony is another oxymoron from the Federal Department of Punishment Implementation: a stand with the sign, “The motherland is work and inspiration to you!” placed there with the goal of expressing the gratitude of the prisoners for the opportunity to weed tomatoes and other labor that is useful for the Motherland.
The director of Crude Accountability, Kate Watters, traveled from the other side of the planet – from the USA – to Russia and to the village of Sadovaya specifically to visit Evgeny Vitishko. Her colleague, Sergey Solyanik, came from Kazakhstan for the same purpose. The “greens” arrived at colony before 10AM in order to be guaranteed enough time to successfully give Vitishko groceries and supplies, and also to meet with him personally. In the best traditions of Russian bureaucracy, the basic process of giving these things took hours, as did waiting for the visit. The activists were certain that, in spite of the delays, the visit would take place because there were no limitations on visitation for foreign citizens visiting prisoners in a Russian penal colony in the legislation.
However, at around 2PM, the colony staff reported that Kate Watters and Sergey Solyanik were refused visitation. After another half hour of waiting, the deputy director of KP-2, Nicholai Smykov, invited them to speak with him. He had nothing intelligible to say about the reason for denying the meeting. According to him, there is some kind of departmental instruction, which states that foreign citizens must receive advance permission from the Federal Service for Implementing Punishment (FSIP). Numerous requests to show the instructions or ask for them resulted in Smykov not responding, which led to the conclusion that this document does not exist. Attempts by the Public Oversight Commission of Tambov Oblast, to whom the greens appealed, to find out more were also in vain. Judging from the behavior of Smykov and his justifications, it was obvious that he was under pressure and that the refusal to allow Watters and Solyanik to see Vitishko was not his personal decision, but rather a command from above, where some not too intelligent boss, obviously decided to be safe in the conditions of a difficult international situation. The team decided this way, it seems, because the director of KP-2 was not at the prison that day.
As a result, only activists from Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, Andrey Rudomakha and Oleg Desiatov, were able to have a short visit with Evgeny, who looked worn out. It was obvious that the unjust decision made on the 15th of April by the Kirsanov regional court to deny his parole had sapped his strength. He said that his batteries were wearing down and “I don’t think I can last more than another six months.” Evgeny also said that his lawyer, Sergey Loktev, had submitted a statement requesting a lesser term in accordance with Article 80 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Replacement of the remaining part of a term with a lesser sentence.” He also stated that the Tambov court was expected to re-evaluate the April 15th refusal soon.
The visit with Vitishko demonstrated that all the people and organizations that are working to free him need to up their game. The millstone of the repressive machine of the Russian state continues to grind away at a person who is guilty of nothing other than that he had the courage to fight against the violation of rights of citizens.
With regard to the refusal to let Kate Watters and Sergey Solyanik visit Evgeny Vitishko, Environmental Watch and Crude Accountability will work to bring to justice those responsible in the prison system for making an illegal decision, grossly violating the rights of Vitishko, Watters and Solyanik.
Information from Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus
For more information: (918)4284284, Andrey Rudomakha