Krasnodar Environmentalist Placed on Wanted List

18 December 2012 

Source: (info)
Suren Gazaryan, a Krasnodar activist and member of EcoWatch in the North Caucasus, has been placed on the federal wanted list. The ecologist is accused of offences under Part 1 Article 119 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (making threats to kill or commit grievous bodily harm).

Suren Gazaryan announced that he was wanted by police on Twitter. He was notified of this latest move by his lawyer.

Gazaryan explains the background to the story in his blog. At the beginning of August he and several other environmentalists had attempted to view a site that has been earmarked as a yacht marina near the village of Praskoveevka and the infamous “Putin's Palace.”. According to Gazaryan, he was located on public land and not breaking any laws when he was approached by Denis Pirogov, a guard working for the private security firm Rubin. Acting under orders given to him on his portable ear-set, Pirogov attempted to detain Gazaryan by force and take him to a checkpoint. Gazaryan describes how he “stepped back, picked up a stone and told Pirogov to stay at least 3 metres away. I did not want to look at his obnoxious face any longer, so I turned around and walked towards the sea.” By this time, three other security guards had arrived, but nothing further happened. The next day the environmentalist repeated his attempt to photograph the projected site for the marina but was intercepted by seven guards. They did not attempt to use force against him.

On 26 August, Gazaryan was arrested in the town of Gelendzhik and handed notification that criminal proceedings were being instituted against him on the basis of claims made by Pirogov. Pirogov had reported a crime that had taken place “on the basis of spontaneous antagonistic personal relations.” Pirogov’s allegation that Gazaryan had threatened to kill him, waving a stone at him, and thereby causing the guard “serious psychological distress”, had been supported by investigating officer D.V. Kovalev of the Gelendzhik police station.

Attempts made by Gazaryan and his supporters to have the legality of the security guards' actions investigated by the public prosecutor and the police came to nought. Investigators responded that they could find no crime in the guards' activities.

Suren Gazaryan together with Evgeny Vitishko, a colleague from EcoWatch in the North Caucasus, were sentenced during the summer to a three-year suspended sentence (with two years’ probation). The activists were convicted of vandalizing the gates (by writing on them) of a tourist resort owned by a company called Agrokompleks, which is known by locals as “Tkachev's Dacha” (Tkachev is governor of Krasnodar region). The ecologists claim that they have evidence that illegal felling of endangered trees has been taking place there.

“I've been tried in the magistrates’ courts many times, so they will be only too happy to sign a guilty verdict, corrected and signed by the prosecutor’s office with love,” said Gazaryan. “Evidence submitted by the defence counsel was ruled inadmissable by the judge, because it came from my personal friends and acquaintances, while the guards are considered neutral witnesses. They will add another six months to my three years probation, which will become a real sentence on the grounds that I have reoffended. Governor Tkachev will be pleased.”

In October 2012, Suren Gazaryan was elected to the opposition movement's Coordinating Council. In response to messages of support from his colleagues on the Council, Gazaryan wrote “the 6th May prisoners, and indeed all political prisoners, must be the priority for the Council. I myself am not as badly off as they are.”