Greenpeace Russia: Siberian Wildfires Are Planetary Disaster

49754589_303A satellite view of the forest fires in Siberia, July 21, 2019. Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Wildfires in Siberia becoming a planetary-scale disaster
Gismeteo
July 29, 2019

Grigory Kuksin, the head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting project, called wildfires in Siberia and the Far East a planetary-scale disaster.

Smoke from fires usually moves east or north, but this time it is moving west. Thus, the smoke has engulfed Siberian cities and has reached the Urals. The smell of burning is reported in the Volga Region and Tatarstan.

The wind that changed its direction is expected to bring the smoke to Kamchatka. It may even reach other continents across the ocean, which means it will become a planetary-scale disaster.

Kuksin believes that the smoke will continue to affect the region for a few more weeks. Heavy rain is needed to extinguish such a large fire, but no precipitation is expected.

The expert believes it necessary to reconsider the area of control and implement special measures to avoid similar situations in the future.

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Why There Are So Many Forest Fires in Russia
The scale and aftermath of the disasters are exacerbated by the consumerist mindset of authorities and the lack of resources in a weak economy
Vladimir Ruvinsky
Vedomosti
July 29, 2019

Dense smoke from forest fires has covered cities in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region. The fires could have been dealt with at an early stage, but regional authorities avoid fighting fires when they can avoid it due to a lack of money and means.

According to Greenpeace Russia, the fires have encompassed over three million hectares of forest, an area comparable in size to Belgium. The total for the spring and summer of 2019 is eleven million hectares, an area larger than Portugal. During this century, 2003 and 2012 saw worse fire seasons, but Grigory Kuksin of Greenpeace Russia says the records set during those years will probably be beaten this week. Usually, the smoke from the fires drifts towards the sparsely populated east and north. This year, however, the fires have attracted more attention since the smoke has drifted westwards, towards Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Kazan.

The current fires are largely a consequence of decision-making by Russian authorities. More than 90% are the burning fires are located in so-called monitoring zones, areas where regional authorities may not fight fires if the expenditures on extinguishing exceed the damage they cause. This regulation was adopted in 2015 when Russian federal authorities basically legalized what had been an implicit rule during Soviet times. But the Soviet authorities had, in fact, fought fires in remote areas. Nowadays, regional governors are not officially obliged to fight them. They take advantage of this, especially because they lack money and equipment.

While Russia has lots of woodlands, its economy is too week to fight all forest fires. Kuksin argues that the gigantic monitoring zones could be decreased while increasing prevention measures and using available resources to better effect. Most fires are caused by people: they are mainly sparked when loggers burn residue wood in logging areas.  Such fires could definitely be put out immediately, but local authorities have made a practice of refusing to fight them. They are the major cause of the biggest fires, which have turned into insoluble problems that only the rains can solve.

The way the authorities see things, the anticipated costs of putting out fires in the monitoring zones are always higher than the damage caused by them. The damage caused by forest fires is primarily calculated in terms of the minimum price of timber. This cost can be written off (and if not, there is no damage), i.e., forest fires often cost almost nothing in terms of official damages. However, as Konstantin Kobyakov, an environmentalist at WWF Russia, points outs, Russia loses three times more forest in fires annually (three million hectares) than the forest industry removes (one million hectares), meaning the country already faces a deficit of woodlands that will only keep growing.

Kuksin recalls that gas and oil industry infrastructure, such as pipelines, is located in the monitoring zones, and uncontrolled blazes are approaching hundreds of villages and small towns. Damage assessment does not account for air and water pollution or the real harm caused to people’s health by acrid smoke, which is harder to calculate but does considerably increase mortality. In addition, stable high-pressure systems have formed over the gigantic fire zone in Siberia, triggering abnormally heavy rains along the perimeter. The fires generate a lot of greenhouse gases and soot, which accelerates the melting of arctic ice and climate change, meaning they increase the risk of more fires in the future.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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“Extremism” Case against Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh Dropped

Defense lawyer Andrei Sabinin (left) and environmentalist Valery Brinikh. Photo courtesy of Agora

Adygean Court Drops “Extremism” Case against Environmentalist Valery Brinikh 
Agora
August 7, 2017

Maykop City Court today dropped the “extremism” criminal case against well-known local environmentalist Valery Brinikh, director of the Institute for Regional Biological Research. Brinikh was on trial for, allegedly, having insulted the dignity of the Adgyean people by writing and publishing an article entitled “The Silence of the Lambs.” The court dropped the case for want of criminal culpability.

He was explained his right to exoneration. This news from courtroom was reported by Alexander Popkov, an attorney with the Agora International Human Rights Group, who represented Brinikh along with attorney Andrei Sabinin.

“Today in court, the state prosecutor filed a motion to drop the charges of incitement of hatred against Brinikkh and drop the criminal case for want of criminal culpability in his actions,” said Popkov. “The judge retired to chambers before he announced the decision to terminate the criminal case. The ultimate argument in favor of this decision was a forensic examination carried out by the FSB Criminalistics Institute, which found no traces of “extremism” in the environmentalist’s article. A total of four expert opinions and three forensic examinations had been ordered in the case, and only one of them supported the charges. The case lasted almost three years.

According to police investigators, in the fall of 2014, Valery Brinikh, director of the Institute for Regional Biological Research, and ex-director of the Caucasus Nature Reserve (1999-2001) и the Daur Nature Reserve (1993-1999), had produced “extremist” matter, an original article entitled “The Silence of the Lambs.” The article dealt with the environmental mental problems caused by one company’s hog-breeding facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsk District. The company was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, representative of Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council.

Vyacheslav Derev. Photo courtesy of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly

The investigators claimed that Brinikh subsequently conveyed this matter to unidentified persons for dissemination on the internet. The environmentalist’s article was published on a local website. The defense did not agree with the prosecution’s argument, saying it was absurd, a violation of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

On December 14, 2014, Maykop City Court ruled the article “The Silence of the Lambs” “extremist” matter. In March 2015, the Adygea Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision.

ADV-TV, published on YouTube on August 7, 2017. On August 7, 2017, Maykop City Court dropped the “extremism” criminal case against well-known local environmentalist Valery Brinikh, director of the Institute for Regional Biological Research. Brinikh was on trial for, allegedly, having insulted the dignity of the Adgyean people by writing and publishing an article entitled “The Silence of the Lambs. The court dropped the case for want of criminal culpability. Brinikh was defended in court by attorney Andrei Sabinin and attorney Alexander Popkov, with the Agora International Human Rights Group.

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Valery Brinikh poses for a photograph outside the Maykop City Court. Courtesy of Valery Brinikh

Court Refuses to Rule Biologist “Extremist”for Criticizing Hog Breeders
Although Article Containing the Criticisms Remains on List of “Extremist” Matter
Anastasia Kornya
Vedomosti
August 8, 2017

On Monday, Maykop City Court terminated the “extremist” criminal case (Russian Criminal Code Article 282) against Valery Brinikh, director of the Institute for Regional Biological Research. He was on trial for the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” about the environmental damaged caused by the Kievo-Zhuraki Agro-Industrial Complex. The news was reported Alexander Popkov, an attorney with the Agora International Human Rights Group, one of Brinikh’s defense attorneys.

The charges had been filed in December 2014. According to police investigators, the article contained a negative assessment of ethnic Adyghes. Ultimately, however, the prosecutor’s officer dropped the charges. The decisive argument was a forensic examination, conducted by the FSB Criminalistics Institute, which found no evidence of “extremism.” The article contains criticism of the republic’s authorities, “but criticism of persons engaged in political activity is the norm in a civic, democratic society,” the report concludes.

Investigators cited the conclusions of Sergei Fedyayev, an analyst at the Interior Ministry’s Criminalistics Center for Krasnodar Territory. Fedyayev argued that the negative connotations of the word “sheep” extended to the word “lamb,” as used in the article. On the basis of the report written by this same analyst and at the request of the republic’s prosecutor’s office, in December 2014, the Maykop City Court ruled that Brinikh’s article was “extremist” matter. Thus, Brinikh has been cleared of “extremist” charges, but his articles is still listed in the database of extremist matter.

Popkov argues that the ruling is a precedent. He cannot remember similar cases. Theoretically, one of the parties could petition the court to exclude the article from the list of extremist matter, but his client has not yet decided whether he will pursue this. The Adygea Prosecutor’s Office did not respond promptly to our request for a reaction to the ruling.

From a legal point of view, the case is not absurd, argues a source in law enforcement. The author of a text considered “extremist” may not be an “extremist” himself. In this case, the decisive role is played by the intent in his actions to incite hatred. It might well transpire that the individual had no sinister intent whatsoever, but after the text he authored has been published, it lives its own life.

Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center, knows of cases when matter has been excluded from the official list of “extremist” matter, but not due to the acquittal of suspected “extremists.” That happens all to rarely. However, the case in Maykop is a good illustration of the poor quality of such judicial rulings, he notes. In approximately half of cases, matter is ruled extremist using a simplified procedure. Authors are usually not involved in the case, and so no dispute as such arises. Recently, the Prosecutor General’s Office tightened the procedure for applying to the courts with such requests. Now they can be made only by regional prosecutors and only after they have vetted the request with the Prosecutor General’s Office. Verkhovsky acknowledges that such measures have indeed worked, but they have not solved the problem of rubber-stamp court decisions on “extremist” matter, he argues.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK and Comrade Uvarova for the heads-up. See all my previous postings on the Brinikh case.

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants

Valery Brinikh

Prosecution Witness in Brinikh Case Recants
Grani.ru
March 24, 2016

77-year-old Mugdin Guchetl, a witness for the prosecution in the extremist case against environmentalist Valery Brinikh, recanted from the testimony identified as his in the case file during a court hearing in Maykop City Court in Adygea, as reported by the international human rights group Agora, who cited Brinikh’s defense attorney Alexander Popkov.

In testimony signed “Guchetl,” given during the investigation, it states that Brinikh has insulted not only the witness but the entire Adyghe people with his article “The Silence of the Lambs.” During the trial, however, the witness said he had not read the article, that he had not been in Adygeisk for around five years (although according to the interrogation report he was questioned in Adygeisk), that he had not given testimony to a police investigator, and that he had not signed the interrogation report.

Presiding Judge Vitaly Galagan pressed Guchetl, telling him that if he did not acknowledge his own signature, he would be summoned to court again. The defense protested the judge’s actions and filed a motion for a handwriting analysis to be performed.

The article “The Silence of the Lambs” was published on the website For Krasnodar! in September 2014. It recounts the environmental problems caused by Kievo-Zhuraki Agribusiness JSC, a large pig-breeding facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsk District. The company was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, Karachay-Cherkessia’s representative in the Federation Council.

The article contains the following passage: “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.”

On December 17, 2014, Maykop City Court ruled that “The Silence of the Lambs” was extremist. On March 20, 2015, the Adygea Supreme Court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision. In their rulings, the courts claimed the author of the article had insulted ethnic Adyghe, accusing them of cowardice. On January 12, 2016, Brinikh submitted a written petition to Maykop City Court asking it to reexamine its ruling in the light of new circumstances, but on January 21, Judge Irina Ramazanov refused to consider the petition.

The environmentalist had been charged under Articles 33.5 and 282.1 of the Criminal Code (complicity in inciting hatred and enmity) as he was accused of having help to disseminate the article. Subsequently, Major Konstantin Kustov, senior major case investigator at the regional headquarters of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee, recharged the environmentalist, removing Article 33.5 from the charges and accusing the biologist of having authored “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Defense attorney Popkov has noted that over the past year the Investigative Committee has ordered five forensic examinations in the case. However, the lawyer stressed that data from a wiretap of Brinikh’s telephone, conducted by the Federal Security Service (FSB) a few months before “The Silence of the Lambs” was published, has been subjected to a phonological forensic analysis.

Hearing of the case on the merits began on January 26, 2016. Popkov had insisted on sending the case back to the prosecutor’s office, pointing out that a number of pieces of evidence had been falsified, but Judge Galagan rejected his appeal.

During the February 9 hearing of the case, one of the ethnic Adyghes who was questioned refuted the charges against the defendant.

“The environmentalist’s article caused no enmity,” he said. “On the contrary, Brinikh has help the Adyghes fight for the environment.”

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of 8772.ru. See my previous posts on Valery Brinikh and the case against him.

The Strange Trial of Valery Brinikh

Judge Refuses to Return Case of Environmentalist Accused of Extremism to Prosecutor
OVDInfo.org
January 26, 2016

Maykop City Court has refused to return the case of environmentalist Valery Brinikh, accused of inciting hatred against the Adyghe people, to the prosecutor’s office for further investigation. This happened on January 26 at the first hearing in Brinikh’s trial. Lawyer Alexander Popkov, Brinikh’s defense attorney, told OVD Info that the reason for the motion to return the case to the prosecutor were the violations of criminal procedural law that have surfaced during the case. According to Popkov, the case files which the police investigator allowed them to examine did not match the case files submitted to the court.

Valery Brinikh
Valery Brinikh

“The dates of the inspection protocols of the items seized during the search [of Brinikh’s home] have been changed,” Popkov explained.

According to him, during the investigation, he and his client discovered that the inspection protocols  had been drawn up before the items were confiscated. After they pointed this out, protocols that were formally drawn up later than Brinikh and Popkov reviewed them were submitted to the court.

Brinikh told OVD Info that the court had refused to admit two defenders to the case: retired judge Oleg Alexeev and Zaurbiya Chundyshko (an ethnic Adyghe), chair of the Maykop grassroots organization Adhyge Khase. The presiding judge has refused to call to the stand the witnesses and experts whom Brinikh and his attorney had asked to testify, including the people who performed the computer and linguistic forensic examinations during the investigation. The defense has a number of questions for them.

According to police investigators, in the fall of 2014, Valery Brinikh produced a piece of extremist matter: the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” which dealt with the environmental problems cause by a hog farming facility in Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District. It was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, the Federation Council member for Karachaevo-Cherkessia.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Cogita.ru

Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case:

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire: The Case of Valery Brinikh, Part 3

It’s Dangerous to Quote Voltaire
ovdinfo.org
January 10, 2015

Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

In Adygea, Valery Brinikh, chair of the regional branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conversation (VOOP), has been charged with aiding and abetting extremist activity and subjected to travel restrictions. According to investigators, Brinikh “aided unidentified persons in disseminating information aimed at abasing the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of ethnicity and origin by creating extremist material.” Abasement of dignity charges (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 282.1) were filed in December 2014. They were occasioned by publication of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” on the website For Krasnodar! The article details the environmental damaged caused to Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District by pollution from an industrial pig-breeding facility. The company that runs the facility, Kiev0-Zhuraki Agrobusiness JSC, was founded by Vyacheslav Derev, who represents Karachay-Cherkessia in the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.

Several days after the charges were filed, the article was deemed extremist. According to Brinikh’s defense attorney, Alexander Popkov, the [next-to-last] sentence in the article, which quotes Voltaire’s argument that God helps those battalions that shoot best, could have been the main reason it was deemed extremist.

“The word ‘shoot’ is forbidden; it is an awful word. ‘Battalions’ is also an awful word. And Voltaire was a freethinker,” Popkov says ironically.

Brinikh was for a long time officially regarded as a suspect in the case. According to Popkov, investigators have no proof that it was his client who wrote the article, but they claim he aided “persons unknown” in disseminating it.

The indictment does not make clear exactly whose dignity was abased by the article. Popkov recounts that, initially, investigators said that Brinikh “had offended public officials.” Ethnic motives were also discussed.

In the written petition, filed by the Adygea Prosecutor’s Office, asking the court to deem the article extremist, it says that “according to the findings of the linguistic analysis carried out by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs in Krasnodar Krai (No. 17/7-119i, dated September 15, 2014), the text of the article ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ contains statements negatively evaluating a group of persons, united on the basis of ethnicity, the Adyghe (identified in the text as ‘cowards,’ ‘persons who lack self-esteem,’ and ‘lambs’).”

The article’s authors complains about the passivity of the local populace, who refuse to defend their own interests.

Popkov notes Brinikh would not have wanted to humiliate the Adyghe.

“On the contrary,” says Popkov, “he advocated for them and visited them.”

The prosecutor’s petition also claims the article contains “statements that could be understood to incite ethnic Adyghe to take actions, probably involving violence, against a group of persons, i.e., the local authorities.”

According to Popkov, Brinikh’s aiding and abetting persons unknown “is supposedly confirmed by a phonoscopic examination: he allegedly spoke by telephone about posting the article on the Web.”

However, since the article was posted on the Web before criminal charges were filed and before it was declared extremist, it follows that Brinikh’s telephone was bugged before these events took place.

“The question arises: on what basis were they bugging him?” asks Popkov.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Editor’s Note. The following day, January 11, ovdinfo.org reported that Valery Brinikh’s trial on the above-mentioned charges would begin in Maykop City Court on January 19.

Please read my previous posts on the Brinikh case:

The Silence of the Lambs, Part 2: The Case of Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh
Adygean Environmentalist Valery Brinikh

Adygean Environmentalist Charged with Extremism
November 17, 2015 | Republic of Adygea
SOVA Center

Environmentalist Valery Brinikh accused of ethnically motivated humiliation for writing an article about the problems caused by pig farming in Adygea

On November 17, 2015, it transpired that a new charge has been filed against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh under Article 282.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code (humiliation of a group of persons on the grounds of ethnicity and origin, committed publicly using the Internet). Earlier, the 51-year-old director of the Institute of Regional Biological Research had been accused only of aiding and abetting the distribution of extremist matter, the article “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Now the Investigative Committee considers him the author of this article,” explained Alexander Popkov, the environmentalist’s attorney.

Criminal charges were filed against Brinikh on December 11, 2014, for publishing the article on the website For Krasnodar! [Translator’s note. The website now seems to have been removed; it was still functioning in April 2015, when I first posted on this case.] The article deals with the environmental pollution caused by the pig-breeding facility Kievo-Zhuraki JSC. On December 17, 2014, the Maykop City Court ruled “The Silence of the Lambs” extremist, and the Adygean Supreme Court upheld this ruling in March 2015. In court, Brinikh denied both that he had written the article and that he had posted it on the website. On October 1, 2015,  the environmentalist was charged for the first time (under Articles 33.5 and 282.1  of the Criminal Code).

The author of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” accuses residents of Adygea’s Teuchezhsky District, where the polluting facility is located, of giving in to the authotiries and failing to defend their own interests vigorously. Nevertheless, his remarks are not grounds for a criminal prosecution: they contain no evidence of incitement of hatred. As for the phrase on which the article ends (the author quotes Voltaire’s remark that God helps those battalions that shoot better), given the context it should be interpreted as a rhetorical device rather than a call for extremist action. Obviously, local authorities could have been using the article to put pressure on Brinikh. We should note that the owner of Kievo-Zhuraki JSC is Federation Council member Vyacheslav Derev. On March 5, 2015, the Maykop City Court fined Brinihkh 100,000 rubles [approx. 1,400 euros] for slandering Derev.

Source: Diana Gutsul, “Environmental Brinikh Faced with New Extremism Charges,” RAPSI, November 17, 2015 (in Russian)

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Our Swimmer
Our Swimmer

I would bet 99.99% of Russians could not find Adygea on a map, and 99.99999% of Russians have not heard of Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh, but Putinist power exists there, too, and it is being used to crush Mr. Brinikh into the dirt for stating the obvious too loudly. (Meaning he committed “extremism,” of course.)

So here is that map (courtesy of russianlessons.net).

Adygea (in red) on map of Russia
Adygea (in red) on map of Russia