Greenpeace Russia strongly disagrees with the charges against the nature reserve employees.
On July 15, the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsk City Court found employees of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve guilty of embezzlement in the amount of  million rubles [approx. 7.9 million euros]. The money had been allocated from the federal budget to eliminate accumulated environmental damage.
Darya Panicheva, head of the reserve’s scientific department, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison. The court sentenced Roman Korchigin, deputy director for science and educational tourism, to five years in prison. Oksana Terekhova, deputy director for financial and legal support, was sentenced to five years and six months in prison. Nikolai Pozdnyakov, a former employee of the reserve, was also convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. All of them were taken into police custody in the courtroom.
The court also sentenced all the convicted persons to compensate in full the financial damage indicated in the charges and to pay large fines.
None of the reserve employees of the reserve has admitted any wrongdoing. The defense will petition a higher court to review the verdict, seeking to have the charges completely dropped and obtain an acquittal.
The director of the Kronotsky Reserve, Pyotr Shpilenok, commented on the court’s decision.
“I’m in shock,” he said. “Innocent employees have been taken into custody for doing their official duties. We will continue to fight on their behalf — otherwise we wouldn’t know how to go on living and working. There is now only one recourse for us — to go to higher courts and seek the complete dismissal of charges against them. In addition, the reserve is now literally in a state of emergency: it won’t be able to function as before without these key employees. The specialists sent to prison were responsible for the most important areas of work: science, tourism, and economic support. Kronotsky will now have to urgently make some difficult decisions to keep nature protected.”
The Kronotsky Reserve employees were charged with embezzling over 454 million rubles from the federal budget and being involved in an organized criminal group. The money was earmarked for and spent on cleaning up the reserve and eliminating accumulated environmental damage. The Investigative Committee, however, believes that this money was stolen. On June 27, the prosecution requested that the court sentence the accused reserve employees to six to eight years of imprisonment, multimillion-ruble fines, and overall damages of 454.6 million rubles.
The charges caused a massive public outcry, and the trial came to be called the “Clean-Up Case.” The team at the Kronotsky Reserve publicly posted materials that testify to the innocence of the reserve’s employees: paperwork, photos and video footage, witness statements, and official findings by scientific institutions, Rosprirodnadzor, and the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. They clearly show that there are many discrepancies in the case.
“I personally know the accused reserve employees and can confirm that they are some of the best and most dedicated specialists in the reserve system,” says Mikhail Kreindlin, project manager for specially protected natural areas at Greenpeace Russia. “Basically, the employees are accused of conscientiously and competently performing their work in assessing the damage caused to the reserve earlier, while the investigation is trying to prove the existence of an organized criminal group by pointing to the organizational structure of the institution that manages the reserve.”
Greenpeace Russia considers the sentence imposed on the employees of the Kronotsky Reserve unfair. Over years of cooperation, the reserve employees have proven themselves to be exceptionally honest and professional people, dedicated to their work.
Source: Greenpeace Russia, “Kronotsky Nature Reserve Employees Sentenced to Up to 5 1/2 Years in Prison,” 15 July 2022. Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader