“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.

Valery Brinikh: The District Council Has Left for the Front

"The district committee is closed. Everyone has gone to the front." Image courtesy of Valery Brinikh
“The district committee is closed. Everyone has left for the front.” Image courtesy of Valery Brinikh

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
July 5, 2016

Hello!

Yesterday, the latest hearing in my court case took place. It began at 2:15 p.m.

First, Judge Vitaly Galagan read out the findings of the forensic handwriting analysis of signatures made, allegedly, by Mugdin Guchetl, a prosecution witness from the village of Gabukay, who testified at the hearing before last that he had not signed the written record of the testimony he gave to the police investigator. Instead, at the investigator’s request, he had signed blank sheets of paper in the right places. As expected, the signatures were deemed authentic, although there had been the possibility the investigator had forged not only the interrogation records but also the signatures of witnesses.

The judge then returned to my deferred motion to rule the Teuchezhsky District Council an illegitimate injured party. We had requested the prosecution present written grounds for its legal position, as the prosecutors had objected to granting my motion, arguing that the Teuchezhsky District Council was a legitimate injured party.

The prosecution outdid itself, submitting in writing not only its own objections to granting the motion but also those of the so-called injured party. Surprisingly, the arguments made by district council head Khachmamuk and state prosecutors Shvetsov and Orlova were identical down to the details. Someone probably guided their hands from on high as they scribbled away. But, as the saying goes, paper cannot blush.

The point of their objections was so simple and straightforward that it was completely untethered from the case, leading the reader off into the boundless expanses of the fight against terrorism and extremism.

It transpires that “the leading role in the fighting terrorism and extremism has been assigned to the district council,” while my article “has provoked extremist sentiments in society and has had a negative impact on the work of the Teuchezhsky District Council in preventing extremism.”

Talk about the perpetrator blaming the victim, and without establishing any causal link between my article “The Silence of the Lambs” and the work of the Teuchezhsky District Council in preventing terrorism and extremism!

Attempting to demonstrate the absence of logic and common sense in the objections raised by the injured party and the prosecutors, I reminded the court that the case files contained the January 22, 2015, ruling by the Maykop City Court, which has entered into force, rejecting the Teuchezhsky District Council’s lawsuit against me, in my capacity as author of the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” by way of defending its professional reputation. I also pointed out that the article contains no criticism of the Teuchezhsky District Council’s work in general (it is not even mentioned in the article) nor, in particular, of its work in the field of extremism prevention.

In addition, the district council’s authority extends only to events that have occurred within the district itself, while the article was published on the World Wide Web. The events covered in the article (the actions of the Kievo-Zhuraki Agrobusiness hog breeding facility, the inaction of authorities at all levels in dealing with the Teuchezhsky District’s environmental problems, and my meetings with local residents) in no way touch on the Teuchezhsky District Council’s authority in combating terrorism and extremism.

After hearing all this, Judge Vitaly Galagan smiled cutely and retired to chambers at 2:50 p.m. As it turned out, he spent two and a half long hours in there. What could he have been doing all that time? It would be one thing if at least he had been consulting with smart folk on how to reasonably reject my motion. I realize it is illegal, but rehashing arguments that have nothing whatsoever to do with our case as grounds for rejecting my motion is not only illegal but also stupid. Basically, as they say in such instances, the mountain has brought forth a mouse.

According to the prosecution and Judge Galagan, who concurred with their arguments, the article “The Silence of the Lambs,” which I wrote in Maykop and published on the Internet, somehow diminished the vigilant work of the Teuchezhsky District Council in preventing extremism in the Teuchezhsky District, thus damaging the council’s professional reputation. In such cases, the saying goes, children are awfully sensitive. The district’s principle extremism preventer has been turned into a crybaby. Or, on the contrary, has the prosecution designated it the crybaby given the lack of actual injured parties?

As I listened to the prosecution’s counterarguments, I realized why our local councils take such bad care of local residents, why they take such bad care of roads, hot and cold running water, medical care and education, why everything is so bad: because our local authorities have bigger fish to fry. They have all left for the front to combat terrorism and extremism, and until they defeat the hydra of counter-revolution, the people will just have to suffer. And anyone who moans and groans and criticizes the authorities can be charged with violating Article 282 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code.

I want to give one more piece of sage advice to Russian judges. Lubricate the hinges of the doors to your chambers. Otherwise, the damn things squeak, and those of us sitting in the courtroom get all kinds of funny ideas about the secrecy of judicial deliberations being violated. Is their secrecy being violated, or is it just a draught of wind playing tricks with the door?

The next round in this exercise in umpiring is scheduled for today, July 5, at 10:00 a.m.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Read all my previous posts on Valery Brinikh’s extremism case.

Valery Brinikh: A Surprise Witness

George Orwell, writer: "The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it."
“George Orwell, writer: ‘The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it.'” Image from Valery Brinikh’s Facebook page

Valery Brinikh
Facebook
June 25, 2016

Hello!

The latest hearing in my criminal trial took place on June 24, but it was no run-of-the-mill hearing. When, last week, the court turned down defense attorney Andrei Sabinin’s motion to examine a linguistics expert from the beautiful beyond via videoconferencing (although, literally right before this, two prosecution witnesses from Krasnodar had been examined in this manner), neither the prosecutors nor the judge suspected that soon they would have the honor of gazing at this linguistics expert in person. We provided them with this pleasure.

The linguistics expert smashed the so-called findings of official state expert Sergei Fedyayev to smithereens. She immediately pointed out that Fedyayev had violated the fundamental methodological principles of forensic examinations for identifying signs of extremism. First, such forensic examinations should be comprehensive, involving not only a linguist but also a psychologist and, better yet, a sociologist or political scientist (if social groups are at issue). By definition, a linguist cannot cope with all these tasks alone. Nor did linguistic expert Fedyayev cope with his task. His analysis of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” skids on the sharp turns like a Volga car. Hence the large number of mistakes and simple linguistic blunders he made, producing findings that were not only at odds with the principles of linguistics but also with common sense.

During her testimony, our expert pointed to a number of instances where Fedyayev clearly went beyond his competence as a linguist by giving legal evaluations of individual passages in “The Silence of the Lambs” and thus infringing on the court’s realm of responsibility. In addition, his findings contain a definition of the concept of a “group,” something only a sociologist or political scientist is competent to define. The Russian Supreme Court has directly ruled it is inadmissible to define the authorities (state officials) as a “social group.” But what does the Russian Supreme Court mean to Fedyayev when the Adygea Supreme Court is dealing the cards? Fedyayev’s analysis also contains probabilistic conclusions (i.e., dealing with the realm of possibility), which are inadmissible in a linguistic forensic examination.

Apologizing to the judge for infringing on legal issues, our expert noted that the article does not oppose one group to another, one nation to another, and that there is no evidence of incitement to enmity and hatred on ethnic and other grounds in the text.

Our expert also testified that lexical-semantic and lexical-stylistic methods should be used in analyzing the text, while the huge number of other methods listed by Fedyayev either were not employed or were superfluous. In particular, by not using conceptual analysis, Fedyayev was led to erroneous conclusions.

The overall conclusion of the linguistics expert we called to the stand in Maykop City Court yesterday was that the article “The Silence of the Lambs” was highly critical and chockablock with negative assessments of the authorities and the hog breeding business, but there was nothing in the article that could interpreted as inciting enmity and hatred. In particular, she pointed out to the court that the words “Adyghe” and “Adygean” are encountered in different contexts in the article, testifying to the fact that the author distinguishes between the notions, using them in the article to denote different things. While the word “Adyghe” clearly refers to an ethnicity, “Adygean” has several meanings, one of them being a resident of Adygea, without reference to his or her ethnicity, as in krasnodarets, sochinets, stavropolets, and so on. [That is, the Russian terms for residents of Krasnodar, Sochi, and Stavropol, respectively.—TRR.]

What mattered to me was our expert’s answer to the question of whether it was possible, having received an unfamiliar text in the morning, to carry out a forensic examination of it by the evening of the same day and discover grounds for suspecting the text of extremism by using linguistic methods. My question was prompted by the fact that on September 15, 2014, Fedyayev, at the request of the FSB’s regional office in the Republic of Adygea, conducted a linguistic examination of the article “The Silence of the Lambs” in ten hours, and his memorandum to this effect (not even an expert opinion) was the grounds for the Maykop City Court (Judge Irina Ramazanova, presiding) ruling that the article was extremist. Later, on the basis of the very same memorandum, whipped up in a single workday, the very same Fedyayev wrote up the expert findings that served as the basis for my indictment on criminal charges.

The conclusion of the expert we called to the stand was unequivocal: it would be impossible. Sometimes, explained the expert, who is a past master at linguistic and comprehensive forensic examinations, analysis of a single sentence might take three hours. So, personally, she takes two weeks to perform such examinations.

In general, the testimony or, rather, the lecture by the linguistics expert we called to the stand was so thorough that neither the judge nor the prosecutors could think of anything substantive to ask her. Thus, by presenting critical reviews of Fedyayev’s forensic examination, we have drawn a thick line under it, making it completely impossible for it to be used as evidence for the prosecution in the criminal case against me.

The next hearing has been scheduled for 2:15 p.m. on July 4. Most likely, we will file a motion to have the forensic examination redone, asking this time for a comprehensive, rather than linguistic, examination.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Please read my previous posts on the extremism case against Adygean environmentalist Valery Brinikh.

Image courtesy of Twitter
Image courtesy of Twitter

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

The Silence of the Lambs

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.

f2d0e74c0b73Valery Brinikh

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.

For more information, call +7 (918) 425-8435

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“The silence of the lambs”: why the smell of manure must be endured
Elena Borovskaya
December 23, 2014
openrussia.org

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.

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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?