A New Round in the Crackdown against Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh
Adygea Supreme Court Upholds Decision Declaring Article “The Silence of the Lambs” Extremist
March 22, 2015
Environmental Watch on North Caucasus
On March 20, 2015, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Adygea heard an appeal filed by Valery Brinikh, chair of the Adygean branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), against a December 17, 2014, decision by the Maykop City Court in which Judge Irina Ramazanova had ruled Brinikh’s article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist. The Supreme Court rejected Brinikh’s appeal.
The article, published in August of last year, dealt with the environmental problems caused by Kievo-Zhuraki JSC, a pig-breeding facility located in Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District. Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, founded Kievo-Zhuraki JSC. The publication of “The Silence of the Lambs” served as a spurious pretext for launching a crackdown against Valery Brinikh and stopping his environmental work by any means possible. All of the republic’s law enforcement agencies, working in concert, as if on orders and following a unified plan, started a campaign of persecution against Brinikh. The republic’s FSB office and the Russian Interior Ministry’s Extremism Prevention Department (Center “E”) in Adygea led the investigation. The Adygean Prosecutor’s Office filed the lawsuit requesting that the article be ruled extremist, while the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in the Republic of Adygea filed extremism charges against Brinikh under Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. Only the timely intervention of the Presidential Human Rights Council and its chair, Mikhail Fedotov, who made a special trip for the purpose to Maykop, helped alleviate the attack on Brinikh to some extent. However, the ruling made by the Adygean Supreme Court on March 20 shows that the authorities have decided to proceed with the criminal case against Brinikh.
Judge Vera Meister presided at the first hearing of Brinikh’s appeal on March 10. However, a decision was not rendered in the case. Brinikh managed to sow doubts as to the admissibility of the only piece of the evidence in the case, a certified linguistic analysis of the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” which was produced by the criminal investigation. Brinikh pointed out that according to Russian Federal Constitutional Court Decision No. 18-O, dated February 4, 1999 (“On a Complaint by Citizens M.B. Nikolskaya and M.I. Sapronov That Their Constitutional Rights Had Been Violated by Individual Provisions of the Federal Law ‘On Criminal Investigations'”), the results of a criminal investigation cannot be admitted as evidence in court; they can only be admitted as such only after they have been secured through due process. The judge decided to postpone examination of the appeal for ten days, summoning the expert who conducted the linguistic analysis, Police Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Fedyayev, and questioning him in court. Judge Meister obviously crossed paths with forces that needed a fast and definite decision from the judge. Therefore, at the next hearing, on March 20, Brinikh’s appeal was heard by a new panel of judges. The presiding judge was Olga Kulinchenko, who is deputy chair of the Adygean Supreme Court and chair of the republic’s Council of Judges.
Despite this lofty status, Judge Kulinchenko violated procedural requirements from the outset of the hearing. The expert witness invited to give testimony was not removed from the courtroom prior to being questioned, and he was not made to sign an acknowledgement that he had been warned about criminal liability for perjury. During questioning, the chief expert from the Forensic Center of the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai was unable to explain why he had been assigned the analysis by the deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the Republic of Adygea, and not by the head of the Forensic Center, as stipulated by the Law “On State Forensic Expertise in the Russian Federation.” To explain how the package containing the material for linguistic analysis had been delivered to him in Krasnodar by guarded courier post from Maykop in five minutes (a trip that takes between ninety minutes to two hours by car), Fedyayev claimed that his working day began at 7 a.m. (According to the certified linguistic analysis, the work on it was begun at 9:05 a.m. on March 15, on orders, dated March 15, from the deputy head of the Federal Security Service in the Republic of Adygea.) In keeping with this line of argument, when he signed the accompanying letter on March 15 in Maykop, the deputy head of the Federal Security Service’s office in Adygea would have had to have been at work in the wee hours of Monday morning, March 15, as would have his clerk, who registered the letter. Therefore, the method of the ultra-fast delivery from Maykop to Krasnodar of the package containing the publication remains a mystery. These discrepancies did not trouble Judge Kulinchenko, however. During closing arguments, she constantly interrupted Brinikh, preventing him from fully stating his case and hurrying to finish the spectacle, whose ending was predetermined. The two other judges on the panel were flagrantly bored, since, apparently, they knew in advance how it would all turn out.
And that is what happened. The hearing, a shameful episode for the Russian judicial community, ended with the judges rejecting Brinikh’s appeal against the lower court’s ruling. Thus, as of March 20, the article “The Silence of the Lambs” is officially deemed extremist.
Now we should expect an abrupt reactivation of the investigation into the charges filed against Valery Brinikh on December 11, 2014, under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (“incitement to hatred or hostility, and humiliation of human dignity on the basis of ethnicity”). The investigation can now base its conclusions on the Maykop City Court’s ruling, which is now final and legally binding, something that it previously had critically lacked to legitimize this critical case.
The purpose of all these actions is obvious: to railroad, through the combined efforts of the local offices of the FSB, the Interior Ministry’s Center “E,” the Investigative Committee, the prosecutor’s office, and the courts, one of Russia’s most active conservationists, a man who prevents corrupt officials and unscrupulous businessmen from living peacefully.
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“The silence of the lambs”: why the smell of manure must be endured
December 23, 2014
How an Adygean environmentalist “fomented hatred” and “incited” locals “to action” in his fight against a Federation Council member’s pig farm
Criminal charges have been filed against Valery Brinikh, head of the Adygean branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation for an article he published on the Internet, “The Silence of the Lambs.” Brinikh has been accused of inciting hatred and calling for extremist actions under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code. Observers have linked the persecution of the environmentalist to his long campaign against a pig farm owned by Russian Federation Council member Vyacheslav Derev, which has been polluting the surrounding area with manure.
The article “The Silence of the Lambs” was published on the website For Krasnodar! on September 8, 2014. Currently, the article has been deleted from the site and is available only in search engine caches. In the article, Brinikh describes his meetings with residents of the villages of Gabukay and Assokolay in the Teuchezhsky District, who had complained of the stench from the Kievo-Zhuraki JSC pig-breeding facility and other environmental problems. Local authorities made note of the trip there undertaken by Brinikh and his environmentalist colleagues. In Assokolay, they were greeted by prosecutors, policemen, and Center “E” officers instead of villagers. Sharing his impressions in the article, Brinikh criticizes the passivity of local residents in defending their rights and their “fear of tsars,” quoting aphorisms by Voltaire, and Russian and Adyghe proverbs in the process.
On November 20, the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office petitioned the court to rule the article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist on the basis of an examination performed in conjunction with the local office of the Federal Security Service (FSB). According to the document, a linguistic analysis performed by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai showed that the article contained statements “that could be understood on the basis of ethnicity [and] origin [sic] to promote the degradation of the human dignity” of a group of persons (the Adyghe), as well as statements “that could be understood to incite [the Adyghe] to take actions probably related to violence against a group of persons, [i.e.,] ‘representatives of the local authorities.'”
On December 17, the Maykop City Court satisfied the request by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office and ruled the article “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist. At the previous court hearing, on December 12, Brinikh became ill and was taken by ambulance to the Republican Hospital. After he underwent medical procedures, Brinikh was taken into custody by police, who informed him he had been charged under Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code and took him to his residence to conduct a search. Brinikh was then questioned by the Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee in Adygea and released on his own recognizance. However, investigators attempted to prevent lawyer Ludmila Alexandrova from seeing Brinikh, writes the website Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.
The same day, police investigators arrested Vitaly Isayenko, moderator of the website For Krasnodar! in Krasnodar and took him to Maykop for questioning in the “Silence of the Lambs” case. Lawyers did not know his whereabouts for a long time. According to activist Alexander Yesipyonok, investigators questioned Isayenko through the night, after which he was hospitalized in serious condition due to an aggravation of his diabetes.
Yesipyonok is convinced there are no statements in the article “The Silence of the Lambs” that could be construed as extremist or offensive.
“Rather than supporting Valery Brinikh in his fight to preserve a clean environment, the law enforcement authorities of the Republic of Adygea have organized his criminal prosecution by arbitrarily interpreting the laws, committing numerous procedural violations, and engaging in flagrant psychological pressure,” he wrote in a letter to the editors of Open Russia.
Observers have linked the criminal case against Brinikh to his fight against violations of environmental law by Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, an industrial pig-breeding facility owned by Vyacheslav Derev, Karachay-Cherkessia’s representative in the Federation Council. Brinikh’s confrontation with Kievo-Zhuraki has lasted for several years. According to environmentalists, the facility has caused a permanent stench in the surrounding villages, and discharges of manure have repeatedly killed off fish and seedlings in the fields. After a series of articles by Brinikh, Kievo-Zhuraki management filed a lawsuit to protect its commercial reputation, but the court sided with the environmentalist. In addition to environmental issues, Brinikh has written about corruption: about the ties between Derev and Adygean authorities, and abuses during construction of the pig-breeding facility.
The Presidential Human Rights Council has announced it will be monitoring the Brinikh case. Council chair Mikhail Fedotov and Greenpeace Russia’s executive director Sergei Tsyplenkov studied the situation when they visited Adygea during a field meeting of the council in Krasnodar Territory from December 15 to 17.
In dealing since 2012 with the problems caused by the illegal operations of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, I have often met with local residents who complained to me about the stench from the pig sheds. However, despite the increased activism of our organization in the Teuchezhsky District, at present there is not a single member of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation in this municipality. It has just so happened that the main core of our organization in the republic is made up of residents of Maykop and the Maykop District, while there are almost no members of the Society in Adygea’s ethnic districts.
To remedy this situation, I had asked my Adyghe friends to organize meetings with local residents in the villages of the Teuchezhsky District. We needed to look for assistants in our environmental work. The negative impact of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig-breeding facility on the environment and people’s health was a good occasion for such meetings. It would be interesting to hear directly from the people who lived next door to the pig-breeding facility whether they enjoyed having such a neighbor or not. It was also interesting to see whether we could count on the villagers of the Teuchezhsky District in our fight with the polluting pig producers, who had been violating Russian law and people’s right to a healthy environment.
From long years of personal experience I knew how hard it was encourage ordinary folk in our country to engage in more vigorous actions. Since Soviet times, our people have been used to letting off steam in the kitchen, in narrow circles of likeminded people, while in public they approve any moves made by the authorities, however idiotic. Still, I nourished a glimmer of hope that they had not all grown accustomed to the smell of pig manure, that not everyone was happy with the fact that fish were going belly up in the local ponds, and that the authorities would not lift a finger to improve the situation.
But the reality proved harsher, both to me and to my hopes. First, we stopped at Gabukay, which is located literally right next to the buildings of the pig farm. The village was not crowded on that quiet August evening. In the center, right on the square, about a dozen mainly elderly men were relaxing and playing chess on benches. Among them was the man whom my good friend Kasei Khachegogu had brought me to meet. After introducing myself, I asked the villagers how they liked living next to the pig farm. And immediately it was like something in those people exploded. It turned out they felt there was nothing good about having such a neighbor. But they smelled the stench from the fields and sensed the indifference of the authorities, both local and Adygean, in solving the problems of the village of Gabukay. For, as it transpired, the village had many other environmental problems. For example, back in the day the authorities had altered the course of the river Pshish, and now there were problems with the old riverbed. According to local residents, the authorities had skimped on reclamation works. To put it simply, they had stolen part of the funds allotted, so the work was done not to plan but catch-as-catch-can. Consequently, the old riverbed has become overgrown and has not been irrigated. It has thus become a breeding ground for snakes right on the outskirts of the village. And there is plenty of garbage in the vicinity of Gabukay, just as near any rural settlement in Adygea, because the only authorized solid waste landfills are outside of Maykop and Adygeisk.
After chatting with people and handing out application forms for joining the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation, we hurried on to the village of Assokolay. Frankly, we were hoping we would find more people there. Especially because we had given the residents of Assokolay prior warning through fellow villagers that we would be coming to meet with the people and survey them about pressing environmental problems. However, as soon as they drove into the village, my comrades met a woman they knew hurrying home from the center. She told them that people were already waiting for us near the local House of Culture; only they were not village residents, but police and prosecutors from Adygeisk. And the people who had been there to meet us had simply been dispersed to their homes. The woman advised us not to go there, but to return to Maykop. It was all the same, she said, because we could not talk to anyone but law enforcement officers.
We decided to go all the way to the end: as they say, to drink the cup to the dregs. The square outside the club really was crowded. Waiting for us there were Lieutenant Colonel Ruslan Akhidjak, head of the Adygeisk intermunicipal police department, his deputy, and a dozen of his officers, including several patrol cars. Also in attendance were the Teuchezhsky interdistrict deputy prosecutor, an officer from the extremism prevention department, and several more “men in black.” The local residents were in the minority: around ten to fifteen people in all. As soon as we got out of our vehicles, we were immediately showered with reproaches. Why hadn’t we notified the authorities of our arrival? We tried to explain that we had not been planning any public events, but had only wanted to talk to the villagers, ask them about problems, and suggest that they join the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation. The fact is that in this case our organization would have a greater chance of defending the rights and interests of local residents, including protecting them from the negative impacts of Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig farm.
In the end, I insisted that, since we had come all the way from Maykop, we would talk to however many people showed up. That is just what we did: under the watchful eye of police officers and prosecutors, and with a female officer from the Adygeisk police department standing next to us with a tape recorder turned on. Basically, the conversation was a repeat of the conversation we had had in Gabukay. The only difference was that there were two elderly men present who had gone with me to the court hearings in Adygeisk when our organization had been in a lawsuit with Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC last spring. Thus, the conversation was more heated. We were accused of not having scored any victories in our campaign against the law-breaking pig producers. I had to explain that we have won victories, albeit small ones, and that in conditions of total corruption it would be pointless to expect quick and easy victories in the fight against dirty businessmen. That it would be much easier for me if in the district as a whole and in every village and farm we had active assistance. It is one thing when two or three witnesses come to a court hearing and testify that it stinks where they live, and quite another if hundreds of people would gather in the square outside the court and demand that Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC stop poisoning people’s lives. Perhaps the judge, even if he or she had been “inspired” by their superiors, would find it much more difficult morally to hand down an unjust ruling.
And I also said that Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC had stocked up on all sorts of certificates and evaluations approving their operations, and that was all the officials who inspected them needed to see. In reality, nobody had really inspected the pig producers and punished them. I see all the violations; I know how to punish the guilty parties and, most importantly, how to remedy the situation. But I am a social activist, and I am not authorized to do this, while those who do have the authority do not wish to use it. The regime despises the people, and the people despise this regime. They despise it and fear it. It is a vicious circle. To paraphrase the famous saying, every people deserves the regime it tolerates.
I was saying all this while secretly mulling over the thought that the authorities in Adygea feared any independent opinion, any unauthorized sigh. Look, a whole flock of them had flown into Assokolay, not even begrudging going to work on a Friday evening, right before the weekend. Apparently, local law enforcement was under strict orders from the Adygean government to prevent the opposition (and all real social activists and environmentalists are always in opposition to any government) from meeting with the local population. I recalled the anti-corruption rallies that had not been held because of the authorities, and the rally we had wanted to hold on June 5, World Environment Day, which had been dispersed by police. They clearly know who butters their bread.
Speaking of fat, I have always wondered why it was decided to place the pigsties amid the Adyghe villages and not somewhere in the Russian-speaking region of Adygea. Why is Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC planning to raise cows outside of Maykop while it breeds pigs in the Teuchezhsky District? You find yourself involuntarily wondering whether Adygea’s current authorities have not done this on purpose. Because in practical terms, excuse my use of jargon, the Muslim population has been “punked,” meaning it has been humiliated to the point where people have lost their self-esteem. Humiliated people are easier to manage: you can wrap them round your little finger. And that is what is done to them. As Khazret Bogus, a local farmer and born columnist from the village of Krasnoe, wrote, there is an Adyghe saying: If you have tackled shit, hold on tight, because you have been soiled all the same. The Holy Quran forbids the faithful from eating pork, except in cases when they are forced to eat it. But who or what has forced the Adyghe to breathe manure-polluted air and swim in ponds poisoned by sewage? Nothing but cowardice and a lack of self-esteem. How does living in filth differ from the consumption of pork? For, according to the Quran, the pig is considered a dirty animal, because it lives in filth. But the residents of the Teuchezhsky District also, as a matter of fact, live in filth. It turns out that the stench from Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC’s pig farm poisons not only people’s bodies but also their souls.
People used to sing, “No one will grant us deliverance, / No god, no tsar, no hero. / We will win our liberation, / With our very own hands.” Now they sing completely different songs, songs tolerant of the powers that be and the shit they generously reward people for their obedience. And they themselves place their hope in God, fear the tsar, and hope a hero will save them. No hero will save you, my dear fellow countrymen, until you cease being afraid of tsars. And God will not help you until you roll up your sleeves. The Russians have a saying: “God helps those who help themselves.” And the great French thinker Voltaire argued that God helps those battalions that shoot best.
So when are we going to start shooting better, villagers?