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Today on February 18th 2015, Friends of the Earth Russia calls for a day of solidarity on behalf of environmental activist Evgeny Vitishko, to mark his one-year imprisonment. Vitishko is serving a three-year sentence, allegedly accused of damaging an illegally installed fence belonging to the governor of Krasnodar province. Vitaly Servetnik from Friends of the Earth Russia comments on the unclear motifs behind the imprisonment of Evgeny Vitishko and emphasizes troublesome working conditions for environmental activists in Russia.
Evgeny Vitishko had for the last 10 years been collecting evidence of damages made to the environment in Russia in preparation for the Sochi Olympic games in 2014. Together with Dmitry Shevchenko and Suren Ghazaryan, Vitishko co-authored the report: "Sochi 2014: ten years without a right to law. How to build a ’better world’”, emphasizing the vast environmental destruction in Russia. In 2012 Vitishko was conditionally sentenced to tree years for an alleged delinquency – damaging an illegally installed fence. However, in 2013 the city court of Tuapse changed Vitishko´s sentence and the 18th of February in 2014 he was imprisoned and sent to penal colony settlement. Vitaly Servetnik explains how the court changed the penalty - as the conditional settlement did not stop Vitishko from his environmental activism and showcasing of Russian environmental destruction: “authorities found some technical reasons to change his sentence”.
Servetnik describes how working conditions for environmental organizations and activist are generally bad and worsening in Russia: “there are several activist who has fled the country and has become political refugees”. Organizations with international funding are often blamed to be “foreign agents” and there are organizations that are shut down by the government even though: “activists continue to work as individuals”.
Today, on February 18th 2015, people from all over the world are asked to join in on the day of solidarity for Evgeny Vitishko. Servetnik encourages everyone to manifest their support and protest today – either to go out on the streets or through social media using the hash tag #FreeVitishko.
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