Winter Olympics 2014: Environmentalist jailed for three years after Sochi Games protest

 

Sochi

An activist who protested about environmental damage caused by Sochi Olympic construction has been jailed for three years. The move signals the end of a thaw in political sentencing that started in the? build-up to the Games.

A court in the capital of the Krasnodar territory, where Sochi is located, ruled that Yevgeny Vitishko had violated the parole conditions of a suspended sentence. It upheld a decision made in December to remove the suspension and send him to jail.

Mr Vitishko, a geologist who is a member of Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, was given a three-year suspended sentence in 2012, along with the biologist Suren Gazaryan. The court heard they had spray-painted slogans on a fence during a protest against a mansion that activists said was being built for Alexander Tkachyov, the governor of Krasnodar, in a state forest reserve. Authorities denied that the mansion belonged to Mr Tkachyov.

In December, a judge ruled that Mr Vitishko had broken his parole and should serve time after he travelled to a nearby city without permission and, on another occasion, was one day late registering with the authorities. The activist was arrested this month on charges of swearing in public outside his parole office in Tuapse, a city just north of Sochi . His lawyer, Alexander Popkov, said he had gone there to register a trip to Sochi for the start of the Olympics.

“The authorities want to show their power and make it so I don’t chatter too much, and this is of course connected with the Olympics,” Mr Vitishko told The Independent shortly before the judicial decision in December.

Human rights advocates said the verdict was intended to stifle criticism of the Sochi Winter Olympics, which have been presented as a tour de force for Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

“What’s happening in our country and what’s happening in Sochi should never happen,” Mr Vitishko told the court via video-link from Tuapse. “We are not able to tell the truth about what will happen in our region after the Olympic Games.”

Human Rights Watch condemned the sentence. “We think that this is a real failure of justice in this case because it’s obviously politically motivated and not proportional to the supposed crime,” Yulia Gorbunova of HRW told The Independent.

Mr Vitishko had been outspoken in exposing environmental damage caused by Olympic construction, which involved the use of illegal quarries and waste dumps. On the day of the verdict, his group released a report arguing that “for the sake of [Mr Putin’s] ambitions… the unique nature of the Western Caucasus, billions of dollars of budget funds, and the interests of hundreds of thousands of Sochi residents suffering from the Olympics were thrown in the furnace.”

The verdict goes against a trend that began in December when the Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned, and amnesty was granted to two members of the band Pussy Riot and the crew of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. But before these public acts of mercy, pressure on Sochi activists had been increasing, and two other Environmental Watch members were arrested and threatened with charges last autumn. Another activist told The Independent in December that she had been fired after protesting against an Olympic waste dump in Sochi.

Mr Vitishko must begin his jail term but can appeal within a year, though he is unlikely to succeed, Mr Popkov said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

English Teacher Urgently Required - Secure Unit - Nottingham

£100 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Are you a fully qualified ...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on