Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russian Environmentalist Continues to Fight for Ecology and Human Rights from Behind Bars

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 25 – Yevgeny Vitishko, who is currently serving a three-year sentence in the Russian camps for exposing Moscow’s destruction of the environment around Sochi in the run-up to the Olympics, has continued his fight by releasing a new on-line book about the lives of prisoners and the fate of Russia’s much-despoiled environment.


            Vitishko’s book, entitled “Jail Soup: Sketches in the Style of Solzhenitsyn Made by an Ecologicla and Political Prisoner in Tambov Colony No. 2” (in Russian and with numerous illustrations), is available online at chaskor.ru/article/tyuremnaya_kasha_36996.


            The book demonstrates, Bellona journalist Liya Vandysheva says, that Vitishko is holding up well and that he has not ceased to be concerned about environmental issues even though he has attracted attention in recent months for speaking out on behalf of the rights of prisoners (bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2014/book_vitishko).


            Prior to his arrest and conviction on trumped up charges, Vitishko had been the moving spirit of the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus and had succeeded in exposing the ways in which Moscow officials had run roughshod over even Russian environmental legislation in their pursuit of personal profit and well-being.


            He began serving his three-year sentence in February 2014 and has become a spokesman for prisoners in his and other nearby camps.  But Yevgenya Chirikova, a rights activist, has insisted that Vitishko remains focused on environmental issues, something his book provides additional confirmation of (hro.org/node/20129).


          Environmental activists around the world continue to seek his release, with petitions to the Russian government (activatica.org/blogs/view/id/317/title/sbor-podpisey-za-osvobozhdenie-jekouznika-jekologa-evgeniya-vitishko) and demonstrations in cities in Russia and other countries (ewnc.org/node/14950).


          But at the same time, the Russian authorities have continued to arrest Vitishko’s colleagues and succeeded in having one republic supreme court order the liquidation of his Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus (yuga.ru/news/351598/).


            One can only hope that Vitishko’s moving new book will simultaneously inspire his supporters to even greater activism and shame the Russian government into releasing a man whose only “crime” was to call for Russian officials to live up to the laws of their country and protect the environment for future generations.



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