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Greenpeace wants to bring Voronezh region private security firm to justice

30 May 2013

Source: (info)
Greenpeace Russia intends to call for the Prosecutor General and the Investigative Committee to investigate the brutal beating of environmental activists on 13th May in the Novokhopyorsky district in Voronezh region. The environmental group is also asking concerned citizens to do the same, in order to prevent future arbitrary violence against people protesting over violations of their right to a clean environment.

On 13 May 2013, security guards from the private security firm Patrul tore into those taking part in a peaceful environmental protest camp, set up by local residents at the Elan copper-nickel deposit, where the Mednogorsky Copper-Sulphur Plant has carried out illegal geological surveys. The day before, the camp residents stopped the construction of a five-kilometre-long fence on agricultural land, with concrete foundations.

The security guards started to assault the people who were standing peacefully in front of the fence that surrounds the area. They began to strangle Elena Dragunova. Igor Zhitenev tried to stick up for her, and was struck by one of the guards. He lost consciousness, and it was later ascertained that he had concussion, broken ribs and damage to his skull. Zhitenev was taken to hospital in Borisoglebsk, before being transferred to a hospital in Voronezh, from which he has not yet been discharged. Alexander Zelepukhin was punched in the head, he claims, by the same guard that strangled Elena Dragunova. He was taken to hospital in Uryupinsk, suffering from head injuries and concussion. Four other activists beaten by the guards received the same diagnosis.

Patrul security guards dragged three camp residents inside the fenced-off area and beat them, before slinging them out, over the two-metre-high metal sheet barrier. As a result, the activists were taken to hospital with concussion and multiple injuries. The guards used electric shock devices and threw bricks at the protesters.

Whilst this was happening, police officers did not take any measures to control the security guards, who were clearly exceeding the powers granted to them by law. The police did not make any serious effort to restrain the security staff, preferring to simply observe proceedings.

Currently the fence posts are in place, and the construction of the fence in the field is almost complete. Work can continue within the fenced-off area without public or state monitoring.

“This is not the first time that residents protesting against the violation of their right to a clean environment have been set upon by security guards” Rashid Alimov, Greenpeace Russia‘s toxic waste programme coordinator said. “We saw the same thing in Khimkinsky Forest, in Angarsk and in Zhukovsky, near Moscow. Private security firms have become a new weapon in the fight against environmental activists, and they are clearly violating current legislation. We want to bring those who assaulted peaceful people to justice. We demand that a criminal case is brought against them. This is a legitimate claim, and the only tool we have to fight the arbitrary actions of private security firms. Defending one’s rights is not a crime, and those who actually committed a crime should not be left unpunished”.

Greenpeace is also asking citizens to direct the same demands to the Prosecutor General and the Investigative Committee.