Russia: Evenk community leader opposing UK based gold mining company sentenced to 5 years
On September 29, a City court in Blagoveshchensk, the capital of Russia’s Amur region has sentenced Sergey Nikiforov, former head of the village council of Ivanovskoye, Selemdzhinski district, to 5 years in penal colony and a fine of 16 million roubles under charges of bribery. Villagers, most of them indigenous Evenks believe that the charges are fabricated. Nikiforov had been leading the village’s protests against gold mining on Evenk ancestral territories. The British based gold mining company "Petropavlovsk" intends to extract or from their territories.
On 3 October, the Council of veterans and pensioners of the village held a picket. 87 people gathered at the site of the village Council voicing their outrage over the verdict. They were displaying placards saying: "Freedom for Sergei Nikiforov!", "No to fabricated sentences!", "Rule of law! No to judicial arbitrariness!", "Stop political punishment!", "Send the thieves from Blagoveshchensk behind bars!".
The picket ended with the signing a appeal demanding Nikiforov’s release and a fair re-trial. The resolution is addressed to the Prosecutor of the Amur region, the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation and in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. According to news Agency "Amur.info", Nikiforov was accused of bribery and abuse of power. He will have to serve the five-year sentence in a maximum-security penal colony . After his release he will be barred from to working in senior positions in local government for two years. The court decision has not entered into force and may be appealed.
The villagers believe that the case against Sergei Nikiforov is fabricated. According local sources, the ball started rolling in 2012, when the population of the Ivanovo decided to boycott the Russian presidential elections if their opinions would not be heard in the ongoing dispute with gold mining companies. In 2012, protesting residents of Ivanovskoye had already achieved the cancellation of the license of LLC "Khergu". In 2015, the villagers again came out against gold mining, this time the British-based mining company "Petropavlovsk". The reason was the fact that mining licenses had been granted bypassing the opinions of the local population living in these areas. In addition the technology used for extracting the ore using heavy explosives threatens the local ecosystem.
The adjacent territory has been exploited by mining companies for more than half a century. The affected land is not being recultivated. The deteriorating environmental conditions, have increased morbidity and mortality among the locals. Sergey Nikiforov was the head of the village of Ivanovo and actively defended the interests of the village, for which he now is made to pay, local residents say. Although he was never convicted before, he was given 5 years penal colony and $ 16 million rub (260,000 US Dollar) fine, while the bribe he was accused of accepting amounted to only 200,000 rub (3,200 US Dollar).
Following the arrest of their leader, the villagers are facing unprecedented pressure from the regional authorities.
Tags: Climate action