Sochi Olympic critics get terrorist treatment

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 17, 2013 at 8:24 am •  Published: December 17, 2013
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Gazaryan feared that his suspended sentence would be converted into real prison time, and fled. He was granted political asylum in Estonia this year.

His friend Vitishko still lives in the Sochi area. His probation officer recently petitioned the court to replace his suspended sentence with a prison term. The hearing is on Thursday.

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NATALYA KALINOVSKAYA, CIVIC ACTIVIST AND HEAD OF PSOU VILLAGE:

Kalinovskaya became an activist when she realized that Olympic construction was going to go ahead without any discussion with residents.

"Nobody showed us the bid book, we had no idea what was going to happen to us," she said. "The first projects we saw were brought by foreign media because there was no other place to find out about it. We saw that our cemetery, which is now surrounded by the Olympic venues, was not on the map. I'm sorry but my grandfather lies there, and it's a lie to say that this area is just an open field."

Kalinovskaya and her neighbors have written dozens of petitions and organized rallies to protest what they say was illegal construction on their local beach.

The activist, who already has a degree in economics, is now getting one in environment studies. She has been repeatedly detained at protest rallies.

In February, a local court upheld a complaint against Kalinovskaya by state contractor Olympstroi — and barred her as an "obstacle" to construction works on the beach. Olympstroi told the AP that it sued Kalinovskaya because it had information that she and other activists were "hampering construction."

Judge Alexander Yakimenko said in the ruling that "the presence of the defendants" on the beach and "their actions to prevent construction machinery from operating are presenting a threat to the schedule of Olympic venues construction."

Kalinovskay dismisses that.

"We never tried to stop the construction of Olympic venues," Kalinovskay said. "We were only trying to stop the destruction of the beach. How come Putin isn't ashamed of destroying the pristine beach here, in this unique place?"

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ANDREI RUDOMAKHA, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST:

Rudomakha leads the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, the key force behind exposing illegal landfills, the destruction of landscapes and endangered trees, and the contamination of the key waterway in Sochi.

Rudomakha has repeatedly landed in trouble with authorities: He has been detained at protest rallies, vilified in state-controlled media, and his office has been raided by the Federal Security Service.

Now he is being investigated on suspicion of slandering a judge he claims of convicting an activist over an unsanctioned protest on officials' orders.

"Authorities are sending a message," Rudomakha said: "Don't go too far, or things will get worse."

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DMITRY SHEVCHENKO, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST:

Rudomakha's deputy Shevchenko, who has extensively reported on the environmental disaster in Sochi, was held at the airport in the regional capital of Krasnodar for four hours last month after he flew in from a business trip.

First, the environmentalist was searched by Federal Security Services officials. Then he was taken to a police station where officers would not let him go or explain why they had to hold him. Policemen told Shevchenko that he was stopped because he fit the description of a terrorist on a wanted list. He was also told that his detention was part of security drills that Russian special services were conducting in the region. He was released from the police station four hours later without any explanation.

"As I see it, they are holding drills to subdue troublesome people ahead of the games," Shevchenko said. "They know perfectly well what can damage the games' image: These are political activists, journalists, bloggers and environmentalists."