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Evgeny Vitishko Has Become a Political Prisoner of the 2014 Olympics

Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus
December 20, 2013
Judge Milinchuk sentenced Vitishko – an activist of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus – to three years in a penal colony  
At 18:45 local time in the Tuapse District Court, the hearing of Evgeny Vitishko, a well-known civic activist and council member of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus, was concluded. Judge Igor Milinchuk ordered the changing of Vitishko’s suspended sentence into three years at a penal colony. Vitishko has ten days to appeal and was not immediately taken into custody.
The official inciter for imprisoning Vitishko was the Tuapse Criminal-Executive Inspection (UFSIN) for Krasnodar Krai, which issued the court with a statement requesting that Vitishko’s sentence be amended from suspended to three years’ imprisonment. This request was strongly supported by the prosecution.
Thus we have a new political prisoner in Russia, one whose only crime is his activism. Vitishko was imprisoned for his environmental activities, which were oriented towards stopping the illegal capture of the forestland and coastlines below Krasnodar Krai Governor Tkachev’s dacha. Judge Milinchuk today took the criminal case of “Tkachev’s dacha” to its logical conclusion. In June 2012, Vitishko and another activist of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus, Suren Gazaryan, were given a three-year suspended sentence.
The formal basis for the change in Vitishko’s sentence was the alleged violations of his curfew, which was instigated as part of the suspended sentence. These violations are laughable. The first was recorded when Vitishko went to Krymsk as part of his election campaign; he reported this trip to the inspection. The second was recorded when Vitishko came to the inspection, not on the day that was indicated in his schedule but one day later. The third was for his trip to Krasnodar. In order for this last violation to be recorded, law enforcement had to follow him and have his telephones tapped, as well as trail his location through calls made on his cellular phone.
The goal of this operation against Vitishko was to stop his civic and environmental activism, but primarily, they were for his attempts to restrict environmental violations in preparation for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The authorities are afraid of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus and its activists – the last civic organization that actively continues to uncover and publicize these violations. It is because of this that a campaign of various inspections has been waged against it and its activists are being repressed and persecuted.
Judge Milinchuk’s decision illustrates that the contention that Russia is experiencing an “Olympic thaw” on the eve of the 2014 Olympics, through which Putin is trying to change the rough image of the country, is incorrect.
Andrey Rudomakha
Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus
For more information:
+79882807413, Eugeny Vitishko