Sochi environmental activist jailed for 3 years

A prominent Russian environmental activist who has reported on

the environmental fallout from construction for the $51 billion

2014 Sochi Winter Games has been sentenced to three years in

prison.

Yevgeny Vitishko and another activist were declared guilty of

”deliberate destruction of property” and handed a three-year

suspended prison sentence in 2012. The other activist, Suren

Gazaryan, fled Russia.

The group Vitishko works for, the Environmental Watch on the

North Caucasus, said a Russian court on Friday upheld prosecutors’

demand to turn his suspended sentence into a prison term. He has 10

days to appeal.

Vitishko and Gazaryan had been calling attention to what they

said was the local governor’s property, situated in a national

forest where construction is forbidden. Someone in Vitishko and

Gazaryan’s party who saw the property in 2011 spray-painted ”Sanya

is a thief” on the fence, referring to Governor Alexander

Tkachev.

Both men were found guilty of ”destroying property.” They have

been fierce critics of the Winter Games, President Vladimir Putin’s

pet project, and its environmental record. Gazaryan was threatened

with another criminal case and was granted political asylum in

Estonia earlier this year.

The Associated Press reported this week about activists and

journalists who were being harassed in Sochi for their critical

coverage of preparations for the Games. They have been detained,

slapped with bogus charges and face heavy police scrutiny.