A prominent Russian environmentalist and outspoken critic of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi was sentenced to three years in a prison colony this week, sparking outrage from human rights activists. As the New York Times reports, an appeals court in the city of Krasnodar handed down the sentence on Wednesday, upholding a ruling from a lower court in December. The activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, has been ordered to serve time in a penal colony for violating the terms of a suspended sentence handed down in 2012.
Vitishko had co-authored a report on the environmental damage caused by preparations for the Winter Olympics. He and his colleagues from the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus were planning to present their findings at a news conference in Sochi ahead of last week’s opening ceremony. Those plans were derailed, however, after Vitishko was arrested just days before the games began on charges of swearing in public. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, marking the latest development in what activists say is an ongoing and unjustified crackdown against political dissidents.
“The case against Vitishko has been politically motivated from the start,” said Yulia Gorbunova, Russia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday. “When the authorities continued to harass him it became clear they were trying to silence and exact retribution against certain persistent critics of the preparations for the Olympics.”
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