Supporting Russian activist jailed for damaging a fence, one year on

Activists from Amnesty Chelmsford hold photos of Yvgeny
Activists from Amnesty Chelmsford hold photos of Yvgeny © Barrie Hay

18 February was the first anniversary of Yevgeniy Vitishko's imprisonment.
We wrote to the Prosecutor General in January and again in February last year calling for Vitishko's release. The South West Regional conference publicised his case.

Yevgeniy Vitishko and his fellow activist from the Environmental Watch for the North Caucasus (EWNC) Suren Gazaryan were given 3 years’ conditional sentence for 'deliberate destruction and damage to property'. It was a fence erected in a protected forest area in Krasnodar Region by the Black Sea not far from Sochi and the Winter Olympics site. It was known locally as 'Governor Tkachev’s dacha'. The fence obstructed public access to the forest and the sea, and concealed illegal logging and construction activities.

EWNC activists had a peaceful protest. They unscrewed and took down two sections of the fence to expose destruction of rare and protected trees, and sprayed graffiti on the fence in protest. This was only done after all previous petitions to local and federal government agencies to stop the ongoing destruction of the forest proved futile.

Yevgeniy continued his activism uncovering further cases of illegal environmental damages.

On 18 February 2014, having served fifteen days in detention under charges of 'swearing at a bus stop', Yevgeniy Vitishko was sent to a penal colony.

According to two checks conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office in Krasnodar Region, the allegedly damaged fence never existed.

Write a letter calling for Yevgeniy’s freedom

Please write to the Prosecutor General at the address below. We have provided a template letter that you are free to amend as you like – writing from a personal perspective can have added impact.

Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Prosecutor General’s Office
ul. B. Dmitrovka, d.15a
125993 Moscow GSP- 3
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 987 58 41; +7 495 692 17 25

Dear Prosecutor General,

It is over a year since an environmental activist from Krasnodar region, Yevgeniy Vitishko, started serving his three year sentence. His only “crime” is protecting nature and people’s right to a healthy environment. Yevgeniy Vitishko is a prisoner of conscience persecuted in connection with his peaceful activism.

Yevgeniy Vitishko was convicted for a “deliberate destruction and damage of property” – a fence illegally erected in a protected forest area by the Black Sea in Krasnodar Region which obstructed public access and concealed illegal logging and construction. On 13 November 2011, activists from Environmental Watch for the North Caucasus conducted a peaceful protest action during which they unscrewed and took down two sections of the fence in order to expose destruction of rare and protected trees, and sprayed some graffiti on the fence in protest.

However, checks conducted by the Krasnodar Region Prosecutor’s Office twice – in July 2011 and July 2014 – established that no fence ever existed in that place. Thus, it appears that Yevgeniy Vitishko was convicted for damaging a non-existing fence.

We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that Yevgeniy Vitishko is released immediately and unconditionally. We call on you to intervene in the case and initiate its review. It is in your power to restore justice.

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