Sochi Environmental Activist Jailed for Three Years for Spray Painting
a Fence

February 14, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Yevgeny Vitishko, geologist and outspoken critic of the Sochi Winter Olympics’ devastating impact on the region’s environment and biodiversity, is being jailed for three years in a penal colony.

In 2012, the 40-year-old environmental activist spray-painted ‘The forest is for everybody” on a corrugated metal fence around an illegal construction zone inside Sochi’s national park. Behind the fence, the region’s pro-Kremlin governor Alexander Tkachyov was building a summer home, which he later denied. Vitishko was arrested and convicted for vandalism (aka “hooliganism” ) and given a suspended sentence of three years.

Last week, Vitishko was arrested for cursing at a bus stop (aka “hooliganism”) in his hometown of Tuapse, even though there were no witness, on the eve of his scheduled journey to Sochi where he was going to deliver an environmental report to the international press. He was jailed for 15 days.

Since Vitishko had violated the terms of his suspended sentence, he is now being sent to a penal colony to serve out the three year term.

Jailing activists for minor and unrelated offenses has become a standard practice of the Russian authorities. Oligarch and Putin oppositionist Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed for “tax evasion” for 10 years. Protestors have been picked up for “disturbing public order” and even “jay walking.” One of the “Bolotnaya” prisoners who was arrested during massive May 6 anti-Putin protestors for throwing a lemon at the Kevlar vest of a special forces officer, causing the officer “intolerable pain,” was sentenced to indefinite confinement in a psychiatric institution.

In December of 2009, the State Duma changed Russia’s Forest Code to allow the logging of rare species of trees and shrubs. No responsible pre-construction surveys were conducted for the massive, landscape-devastating construction nor any plans to relocate dolphin and pelican populations were made. Sochi, the center of Russia’s animal and plant biodiversity, is riddled with shoddy construction projects, landslides, collapsed buildings and hazardous waste dumps. Even its climate has been altered. (Image: The Guardian)