Russia: Case against defender of sacred lake postponed
The next court hearing over the case of Sergey Kechimov, the guardian of the Imlor, a lake sacred to the Khanty people, will take place on 3 November. "Today a court hearing was held. Given that one of the witnesses on the part of "Surgutneftegaz" did not attend and, as in previous times, the evidence was inconclusive, the hearing was moved to November 3," Alexander Novyukhov, president of the indigenous "Association to Save Yugra" said to the news web site Nakanune.ru
The criminal case against Kechimov was filed this summer after a conflict with employees of the regional oil producer "Surgutneftegaz". A few years earlier the oil company had displayed interest in Kechimov’s ancestral territory near lake Imlor in Surgut district, where large deposits of oil are thought to be located. After obtaining permission from the state, the oil companies began to explore the territory. They agreed with most indigenous families living there, except for Kechimov. He has repeatedly rejected any operations in places sacred to the Khanty and Mansi.
The peak of the confrontation came when Kechimov used a rifle to shoot the dog of one of the workers, which he says killed one of his deer. On the same day Kechimov was raided by the district police officer. Some time later, a criminal case was filed against him under article 119 of the criminal code of the Russian Federation ("Threat on someone’s life"), in which Kechimov stands accused. According the this article, the shaman faces two years behind bars.