Update on repression against environmental groups in Russia

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Since Western media are not reporting that much anymore on repression against non-governmental groups in Russia (except for the case with jailed Greenpeace activists), I will put some update on this crackdown going on presently. Feel free to send around. Greenpeace case is getting a lot of coverage in Russia and governmental media broadcasts a lot of bullshit to make sure Russians hate environmental activists of all kinds.

Ugly thing happened in the South of Russia, Krasnodar city, close to the site of 2014 Winter Olympic Games just few days ago. Local police together with FSB (exKGB) tryed to catch environmental activist Rudomakha. They came to the office of local political party threatening to storm it because they thought activist is inside. But he left earlier. Police gave no explanations but local people think it is because of Olympics. Rudomakha spent a lot of time criticizing the destruction of local nature related to Olympics preparations. Fortunately, activist is still not arrested.

The case which getting not much of coverage presently - situation with environmental group "Muravievsky park" in the Far East, charged on the basis of "foreign agent" law last Summer. Just to remind you - "foreign agent" law is targeting Russian activists who gets money from foreign sources and practicing "political activities". Actually, group in the Far East is very far from any political activities, they just protecting cranes. Group went to the court last week, to prove that they are not "foreign agents". And they failed. Judge said, once this group collected signatures under petition to local governor (about protection of local nature after big fires) - this is political activity and they are "foreign agents".

Local prosecutor said something similar to Ecodefense in Kaliningrad - we should not interfere to the work of government of any level, we should not make petitions or influence decision-makers in any way. Otherwise, it will be treated as "political activities" with fines/closure, etc. (read the testimony below).

Actually, getting such compliment from Russian authorities is nice, defenitely makes us proud, but we do not want to leave the party yet. Since we were warned, we did couple of "interferences" and been lucky so far, getting no serious punishment. Our main "interference" thing is still alive:

We awaits our orgent case over "foreign agent" law in Russia to be considered by the European Court on Human Rights in 2013. Last winter Ecodefense and 10 human rights groups applied to the ECHR, starting procedure against Russian government over this law. We asked European Court to order Russian government to reverse the law because it violates the Convention on Human Rights. I attach here our latest testimony sent to the ECHR, giving some explanation about the threat. (this is quick translation, a little shorter than original testimony in Russian).


Testimony for the European Court on Human Rights

Case 9988/13
from Ecodefense, Russia
July 19, 2013

In April 2013, our organization was checked by governmental prosecutors who requested large number of official documents putting unrealistic deadlines. We were informed at 6 pm of April 25 that we should bring documents to the prosecutor by 11 am of April 26. We could not follow this order because for some documents we need several days to request and obtain it from the bank and registration chamber...

Checking of our organization resulted in official warning - local prosecutor declared that political activity is mentioned in our statute and warned that we should not violate the law on non-commercial organizations. Prosecutor also told us that we should not interact with governments of any level. Otherwise, it will be identified as "political activity" and our organization will be held responsible as "foreign agent".

From our point of view, we are not involved into political activity - we do not take part in elections or any other activity aimed at political power. Also, we are not involved in any effort of other people or organizations aimed to obtain political power. Our organization was distanced from political activities since it was established in 1989...

Our goals in the area of environmental protection can not be achieved without interaction with governments of various levels. At the same time, both - our strong criticism over policies of Russian government and specific political situation in Russia - are reasons which makes it almost impossible to obtain funds from Russian sources. That brings us to unpleasant choice - register as "foreign agent" or close down.

This is unacceptable for us to be registered as "foreign agent". We are not "agents" for any foreign person, organization or government. We take decisions by ourselves only, and do not take into account interests of any third party.

Continuation of our activities leads us to giant fines under "foreign agents" law and also to shut down because we will not be able to pay such fines.