Staunton, June 10 – Apparently not satisfied simply with sending Yevgeny Vitishko to a prison camp for three years for his exposes of environmental depradation by the authorities in advance of the Sochi Olympiad, the commanders of the facility where he is serving his sentence are seeking to set other prisoners against him and thus make his life unbearable.
Vitishko told visitors from his Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus group that the camp administration has “begun to conduct active ‘work’ directed at the formation among [other prisoners of anger against him in order to make the conditions of imprisonment unbearable” (sobkorr.ru/news/53957999A91E3.html).
What apparently prompted the authorities to take such steps – among other things, they told other prisoners that Vitishko was responsible for the fact that they couldn’t make telephone calls out – was the environmental activist’s report two weeks ago about the mass beatings of prisoners at that facility (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=537F04B91EC3F&rand=1402305314).
Most of those who suffered as a result were forced to write declarations that they had no complaints about the actions of the prison authorities, an effort by the latter to cover up what they had done and a clear violation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Denigrating Punishments, Vitisho said.
Mobilizing ordinary prisoners against those jailed for what the authorities consider “political” crimes is something redolent of the worst day of Stalinism. At the same time, it is another form of crime that is consistent with the Putin regime’s use of plausibly deniable tactics against its opponents as in the subversion of Ukraine by “little green men” and others.
Vitishko’s only “crime” was reporting on the violations of Russian law by officials and oligarchs in advance of the Sochi Olympics. Now, he is at risk of becoming the victim of another form of illegal action, violence orchestrated by camp administrators in the hope of silencing him permanently.
To prevent that from happening, his case, which was much reported while the international media was focused on Sochi but which has attracted less attention since, must not be forgotten. If the camp bosses get away with what they appear to hope for, others, including more prominent incarcerated individuals, will be at risk.