A Global Day of Solidarity with Russian Environmental Defender Evgeny Vitishko
On February 18, 2015, activists from all over the globe asked Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to take measures to free Russian environmentalist and public figure Evgeny Vitishko. In solidarity with environmental defender, activists held demonstrations and online solidarity actions in different cities of the world. Most popular messages were “Prosecutor General, do your job! Free Vitishko!”, “Free Environmental Defender From Russia Evgeny Vitishko!”
Evgeny Vitishko, a Council Member of Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a Russian penal settlement colony for participation in a public inspection near the luxury resort of the Governor of Krasnodar Krai Alexander Tkachev. That public investigation revealed numerous violations of water and forest laws near settlement Bzhid (Tuapse district, Krasnodar Krai). Instead of punishing violators, Russian authorities decided to suppress those who revealed those violations.
As Evgeny Vitishko continued defending the environment and, as a part of his work, he participated in writing the Report on environmental impact of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, his suspended sentence was revoked right before the Sochi Olympics. And on February 18, 2014, at the height of Sochi Olympics, Evgeny Vitishko was imprisoned in a penal colony. February 18, 2015 is a year anniversary of Evgeny’s imprisonment for defending the right to a favorable environment guaranteed by Russian Constitution (Article 42). On February 18, 2015, Evgeny Vitishko and his attorney filed an appeal to grant a parole.
On a Global Day of Action, activists from all over the world took action and supported Vitishko in different ways.
One of the most pleasant for Evgeny was a visit from his fellow activists from Environmental Watch on North Caucasus. Dmitry Shevchenko, Viktor Chirikov and Alexander Savel’ev visited Evgeny in a penal colony.
Courageous activists held picket near the Office of Prosecutor General in Moscow. Participants Alexey Yablokov (member of Russian Academy of Science, PhD in biology, public figure), Sergey Mitrokhin (Chairman of political party ‘Yabloko’), Sofia Rusova (political party “Yabloko,” Russian ‘Green League’, member of EWNC) took turns and held individual pickets. Police officers were actively interested in demonstrations. Video from demonstration is available.
In downtown Moscow, activists held a demonstration near the monument to Vladimir Vysotsky. Moscow residents also recorded video statements calling upon Russian government to free Evgeny, wishing Evgeny freedom and saying words of solidarity with environmental defender.
A series of demonstrations were held in other Russian cities: St. Petersburg, Sochi, Krasnodar, Maikop, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Tolyatti, Novokuybyshevsk, Kazan.
Maikop (supporting Evgeny Vitishko and Valery Brinikh, who is under persecution at the moment on trumped up charges)
Demonstrations were also held near Russian Embassy in Vilnius (EWNC), Berlin (Amnesty International), Paris (Amnesty International) and Washington, D.C. (Crude Accountability).
Amnesty International, who recognized Evgeny Vitishko as a prisoner of conscience, held demonstrations near Russian Embassy in Berlin and Paris. Its divisions in Moldova, Ukraine, Spain, Netherlands, France, Norway and Russia held online support actions as well. They also launched the petition asking to free Evgeny Vitishko immediately and unconditionally and will deliver it to Russian Prosecutor General soon.
A round-table discussion on Evgeny’s persecution and harassment was jointly held by Research and Information Center ‘Memorial’, International Social and Ecological Council, Center for Human Rights and Environment ‘Bellona’, Human Rights Council St.Petersburg, Youth Human Rights Movement. Outstanding respected human rights defenders gave a light on procedural violations in Vitishko’s case and explained the absurdity of a conviction for damaging the fence, which does not exist, according to prosecutor’s office of Krasnodar Krai. Recorded discussion can be found here.
In December of last year, the Office of Prosecutor General filed an appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the decision to imprison Evgeny. Thus, it gave a hope that Evgeny will be free soon. However, that appeal was withdrawn in January of 2015. In this regard, under the initiative of Crude Accountability, 45 non-governmental non-for-profit organizations, including respected individual human rights and environmental attorneys and advocates from all over the world sent official appeal to Russian Prosecutor General to take necessary measures to free Evgeny Vitishko, to initiate legal proceedings regarding the wrongful conviction of Evgeny Vitishko; hold those responsible for his conviction legally accountable; and clarify the withdrawal by the Office of Prosecutor General of the request to vacate the decision of the Tuapse city court of Krasnodar Krai from December 12, 2013 to revoke the suspended sentence and transfer Evgeny Vitishko to a penal settlement colony. They also requested to investigate the facts of installment of the illegal fence in violation of water and forest laws in Bzhid township (Tuapse District, Krasnodar Krai). Thus, bringing real violators to justice and free Evgeny Vitishko, who’s conviction is blatantly absurd as he is imprisoned for damaging the fence, which does not exist.
A similar appeal to Russian Prosecutor General was sent by a group of Russian environmental and human rights NGOs.
Open statements requesting to stop injustice were made by Russian organizations Russian Social-Ecological Union / Friends of the Earth Russia (in Russian), Center for Environment ‘DRONT’ (in Russian). International network of environmental NGOs Friends of the Earth International called upon its members and supporters to join Global Day of Action in support of Evgeny Vitishko.
Thus, more than 45 organizations and activists and advocates from all over the globe supported Evgeny Vitishko on a Global Day of Action and asked Prosecutor General of Russia to free environmental defender. We hope Evgeny will be free soon and continue his work on defending our right to a healthy environment!
You can contribute and make it real by signing petition to free Vitishko immediately and unconditionally!
More about Vitishko’s case on http://ewnc.org/free-vitishko (in Russian) and www.freevitishko.org