Dear friends,

Earlier you signed letter to express solidarity with Russian environmental group Ecodefense because last June Russian government started repression against Ecodefense for its successfull campaign against construction of nuclear plant near Kaliningrad city, in the Baltic Sea region. Thank you for your support. This is another update on this situation, unfortunately it’s very negative.

Ecodefense marks the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe by staging a protest against the import of nuclear waste into Russia. Red Square, Moscow, 2002. (Photo: Ecodefense.ru)

Ecodefense marks the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe by staging a protest against the import of nuclear waste into Russia. Red Square, Moscow, 2002. (Photo: Ecodefense.ru)

On July 21, Russian government included Ecodefense to the list of “foreign agents” along with four most prominent Russian human rights groups. Below you will find very detailed article on latest changes by reporter Maria Kaminskaya, our friend and supporter. Feel free to distribute the link to this article around to friends and reporters you know: http://bellona.org/news/russian-human-rights-issues/russian-ngo-law/2014-07-breaking-russian-authorities-officially-brand-four-leading-human-rights-organizations-ecodefense-foreign-agents-ahead-court-decisions

“Foreign agent” scheme was designed by Russian government to punish non-profit groups which are critical of governmental policies. This is aimed to demonstrate that groups criticizing Russian government are doing this not for protecting public interest, but because they were paid by some “foreign evil” to do this. Of course, Ecodefense can not accept the status of “foreign agent” and will fight it in the court. We do not serve any business or government’ interests, Russian or foreign – our aim is to prevent new nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Earlier Russian Ministry of Justice informed Ecodefense about date for the court hearing – it will happen on August 25. Russian government will come to the court to blame Ecodefense for its activities aimed to stop nuclear plant construction near Kaliningrad. This court case may result in fines up to $25,000 for Ecodefense.

We expected that Russian Ministry of Justice will wait until the court case finishes and then will take decision to include us to the list of “agents”. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Starting from Monday, Ecodefense is officially on the list of “foreig agent” which brings us to a very sensitive situation. From now on, if people from Ecodefense make public statements or publications which not marked as “made by foreign agent” – Ecodefense will be fined for several thousands $ for each case. Ecodefense may actually be fined even for this letter you are reading right now. In the future, if we disobey this requirement of law several times – Russian government may start criminal prosecution which will result in two years jail sentence for responsible Ecodefense employee.

Of course, Ecodefense will do everything possible to avoid personal prosecution for its members. Presently, we prepare lawsuit against Russian Ministry of Justice for its latest action. Although our lawyers are good and experienced, our chance against government in court is very little – Russian courts are usually take governmental side and not the side of justice. But we still want to try.

Protesting against dangerous nuclear plants is not a crime, this is what people have a right for. We in Ecodefense think that civil disobedience against “foreign agent” law is truly important, especially in today’s Russia. If we do not protect our rights, who else can do this?

We will keep you updated on future developments, and hope you will help us in distributing this info widely.

Sincerely,
Vladimir Slivyak,
Ecodefense, co-chairman
Moscow-Kaliningrad, Russia