International Environmental Activists Denied Visitation with Evgeny Vitishko

On 21 May 2015 Kate Watters and Sergey Solyanik of Crude Accountability were denied permission to visit Evgeny Vitishko, an environmental activist wrongly imprisoned in Penal Colony No. 2 in Sadovaya, Russia.

The prison colony officials stated that their visitation was denied because as foreigners they needed to follow special instructions, which were never provided.  When asked what those specific procedures were, the deputy director of the prison, Nikolai Smykov, was unable to give written justification.

When Watters and Solyanik requested that the denial of visitation be provided in writing, they were told that they would not receive that document because to give them a copy of their written request to see Vitishko would be a violation of Vitishko’s privacy and of his human rights.

“We traveled to the colony to see our colleague Evgeny Vitishko,” said Kate Watters, executive director of Crude Accountability. “We came to stand in solidarity with Zhenia, to let him and the prison administration know he is not forgotten, and to bear witness to his wrongful imprisonment. We were denied visitation and Zhenia was denied his right to see visitors.”

Watters and Solyanik traveled to Sadovaya with members of Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, with whom Crude Accountability has worked on joint environmental projects since 2007, and of which Evgeny Vitishko is a member.  After many hours of waiting, two members of Environmental Watch, Andrey Rudomakha and Oleg Desiatov, were able to visit Vitishko during which time he told them, “My batteries are wearing out. I don’t think I can survive another six months here.”

Crude Accountability is filing complaints with the prison authority in Tambov region, requesting an official explanation for the visitation refusal.

Vitishko is serving three years in the penal colony for allegedly writing graffiti on an illegal fence in a protected forest in Krasnodar region.  An outspoken critic of the Sochi Olympics, about which EWNC wrote a comprehensive report cataloging the numerous environmental violations associated with the construction of the Olympic village and surrounding infrastructure, Vitishko has been unjustly targeted by the Russian authorities for his environmental activism. Denied parole in April 2015, he has served one year and three months of his three year sentence.

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