Banner at the rally in support of the arrested activists of "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" Evgeny Vitishko and Suren Gazaryan. March 17, 2012. Photo by Svetlana Kravchenko for the ‘Caucasian Knot’.

20 December 2013, 19:10

Persecutions of civil society activists in Krasnodar and Sochi

In 2013, in the Krasnodar Territory, a broad range of civil and political activists were persecuted by local authorities. The pretexts were the campaign launched by the authorities to tighten control over non-profit organizations (NPOs) and the growing social tension related to the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. The "Caucasian Knot" has compiled the most notable cases of pressure on activists in Krasnodar and Sochi.

Mikhail Savva

Mikhail Savva. Photo by Valentina Mischenko/YugopolisMikhail Savva, a Professor at the Kuban State University and the director of grant programmes at the "Southern Regional Resource Centre" (SRRC), a Krasnodar-based human rights defender. He was detained by law enforcement authorities on April 12, 2013, on charges of a fraud by embezzling budget funds allocated by the Administration of Krasnodar Territory in the form of a grant.

On May 13, 2013, Mikhail Savva saw the second accusation of a fraud. The professor refused to plead guilty.

On June 17, 2013, the "Solidarity Union with Political Prisoners" recognized Mikhail Savva to be a political prisoner. On December 5, the Human Rights Watch urged Russian authorities to release Mikhail Savva of all the charges.

Andrei Rudomakha

On October 10, 2013, the staff of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" and the Krasnodar Territorial Branch of the "Yabloko" Party reported that the party office was visited by policemen. According to ecologists and party activists, the power agents wanted to detain Andrei Rudomakha, the coordinator of the "Ecological Watch" and the head of the "Yabloko" Branch. However, Andrei Rudomakha was not in the office.

On October 31, Andrei Rudomakha was detained in Sochi, in the Khosta District by MIA employees on the basis of the spread orientation message. A few hours later he was released after giving a written obligation to appear for questioning within a criminal case.

Dmitry Shevchenko

On November 9, 2013, at the exit from the Airport "Pashkovskiy" (Krasnodar), law enforcers detained Dmitry Shevchenko, a deputy coordinator of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus". He was released five hours later.

The police claimed that the ecologist cursed the policemen, for what he was detained; however, Dmitry Shevchenko denied any use of obscene lexicon against the agents.

Evgeny Vitishko and Suren Gazaryan

Evgeny Vitishko and Suren Gazaryan (right). Photo: http://fedpress.ruEvgeny Vitishko and Suren Gazaryan are ecological activists from Sochi and members of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus". On November 13, 2011, Vitishko and Gazaryan conducted a public inspection of the forest adjacent to the so-called "Governor Tkachov's summer cottage", and later, for putting inscriptions on the fence of the "cottage", they were sentenced to three years of conditional imprisonment.

The "Solidarity Union with Political Prisoners" put Suren Gazaryan and Evgeny Vitishko on the list of the "persons persecuted for political reasons".

In June 2013, Suren Gazaryan, who left Russia because of persecutions, received a residence permit in Estonia.

On December 20, the Court of Tuapse ruled to convert Evgeny Vitishko's conditional term into real imprisonment.

Circassian activists

On December 13, 2013, by the order of the Territorial Department of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), law enforcers forcibly brought to Krasnodar at least eight Circassian and Abazin activists from the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR), Karachay-Cherkessian Republic (KChR) and Adygea. Their homes and apartments were searched. On December 14, all the activists were released.

The following persons were among those detainees:

  • Ruslan Kesh (KBR), the coordinator of the public movement "Circassian Union" (KBR)
  • Ibragim Yaganov (KBR), a member of the Public Council of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), the chairman of the public movement "Khase" (KBR)
  • Yuri Yakhutlov (Adygea)
  • Khilmi Achmiz (Adygea)
  • Amin Zekhov (Adygea), the head of the public movement "Adyge Khase 21st Century"
  • Evgeny Tashu (Adygea), the chief editor of the Circassian portal "Hekupsa"
  • Adnan Khuade (Adygea), an activist of the movement "Patriots of Cherkessia"
  • Ruslan Kambiev (KChR), the chairman of the National Cultural Centre "Abaza"

Some of the activists were further questioned on December 16. Also on December 16, Arambiy Khapay, the ex-chairman of the movement "Adyge Khase-Circassian Parliament", Adygea, who was not among those detained, was also interrogated.

Aslan Beshto, the former chairman of the movement "Adyge Khase" in Abkhazia, told the "Caucasian Knot" that at interrogations the detained activists were asked about their activities and the so-called "Circassian issue". According to Aslan Beshto, the detention of the activists had to do with the Olympics: "These people have their civic stance on the Olympics in Sochi. In this context, I think, the power agents took the above actions."

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