Support The Moscow Times!

Olympic Committee Asks Russia to Justify 3-Year Sentence for Environmental Activist

Evgeny holding a poster protesting environmental damage in the run-up to the Olympic Games. e.vitishko

The International Olympic Committee and the European Union have asked Russia to explain a three-year prison sentence it handed an activist who criticized the environmental impact of Olympic construction in Sochi.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday that the organization had "asked Sochi for further clarification" about a court's decision to convert a suspended sentence for Yevgeny Vitishko into a prison term, news reports said. However, the IOC considered the case to be unrelated to the Games, Adams added.

Vitishko was found guilty of "deliberate destruction of property" for spray-painting the fence that surrounded a property reportedly owned by a local governor, and received a suspended sentence in 2012. This week, a court converted the sentence to a prison term.

The EU delegation to Russia issued a statement on Thursday, calling the sentence "disproportionate" and apparently "aimed at preventing Mr. Vitishko from presenting his report on the environmental impact of the Olympic Games."

"We reiterate the priority we attach to Russia respecting its international human rights commitments on freedom of assembly, expression and association, before, during and after the Sochi games."

Human Rights Watch and other organizations have called the prosecution politically motivated.

The suspended sentence included a travel ban, but Vitishko filed for permission to go to Sochi from his nearby hometown of Tuapse.

He was planning to leave Tuapse last week to present a new environmental report in Sochi, but was arrested and convicted on hooliganism charges for swearing at a bus stop.

Also see:

Sochi Activist Sent to Prison For 3 Years

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

Please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world's largest country.