Civic Activist Suren Gazaryan Forced to Leave Russia

20 December 2012 

Source: (info
Suren Gazaryan, a well-known Russian activist in the environmental movement, claims that he has been forced to quit Russia following a campaign of politically motivated persecution.

Ecologist Suren Gazaryan, who last week announced that he had been placed on the federal wanted list, informed Human Rights Watch (HRW) that he had to leave Russia.

According to HRW, they were contacted by Gazaryan by telephone on 19 December 2012.

“Gazaryan told us that he is currently seeking asylum in a European country,” said Human Rights Watch in their press release.

Criminal proceedings have been launched against Suren Gazaryan, who was charged under the article of the Russian Criminal Code on 'threats to kill or cause grievous bodily harm'.

Gazaryan claims he is not guilty. According to the ecologist's version of events, on 2 August he was in the town of Gelendzhik when he came into conflict with security guards near private property. Following the incident, one of the guards reported to police that the ecologist had threatened to kill him.

In June of this year, Suren Gazaryan was sentenced to three years in prison on probation. According to the prosecution, he and another ecologist Evgeny Vitishko had vandalized a fence surrounding a forest in the Krasnodar region with offensive graffiti.

The ecologists say that they wrote the slogans on a fence that surrounds the dacha of the Krasnodar Regional Governor Alexander Tkachev.

They claim that the dacha was built illegally in a protected forest and that endangered pine trees listed in the Red Book were felled.

Suren Gazaryan was recently elected to the Coordinating Council of the Russian opposition.

Gazaryan's colleagues are convinced that he is being persecuted for political reasons.

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Read the full interview with Suren Gazaryan