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
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
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.