Socio-ecological Union
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The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 5(20), June, 2001


IN THIS ISSUE:
 

CHERNOBYL INVESTIGATOR SENTENCED TO 8 YEARS IN BELARUS PRISON

HOW TO BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST?

CASPIAN SEA KILLED BY OIL DRILLING

POCKET JOURNALISTS FOR THE GOVERNMENT

REPLANTING THE OAKS ON RUSSIA


Dear friends!

  Thanks to everyone who have answered our questons, for feedback and ideas. According to your wish we will try to make the bulletin once a fortnight, telling about the events in the former Soviet Union environmental and civic fields.


CHERNOBYL INVESTIGATOR SENTENCED TO 8 YEARS IN BELARUS PRISON


  The Belarus court sentenced prominent scientist and doctor Yurii Bandazhevsky to 8 years in prison on June 18. The false charges brought against him implied bribery. Professor Bandazhevsky was under prosecution for two years. He revealed and made public information about the violations and theft by the Belarus officials of the money given for mitigation of Chernobyl disaster consequences. Immediately after that investigation on professor was initiated and felony charges were brought against him.
  Professor Bandazhevsky became uneasy person for Belarus government also because of his studies revealing that Chernobyl impact on population health was much more serious than it was officially declared. For example, Belarus officials would not admit that multiple cases of thyroid cancer, different blood system diseases are connected to Chernobyl radioactive fallout. The Bandazhevsky case in this sense is only a part of huge prosecution campaign unleashed by Belarus government against scientists and activists investigating Chernobyl impacts.
  Bandzhevsky is author of five books and dozens of scientific articles on Chernobyl health impacts. He is recipient of international Hippocratic prize and Sweizer medal. In order to protect him EU Parliament issued an EU passport to Bandazhevsky.
  The guilt sentence looks especially demonstrative and cynical as it states in its text that no direct proofs of Yurii Bandzhevsky taking bribes were found. The witnesses who previously accused him of bribery before the jury told that they were forced to do that and refused from their earlier testimony. Previous prosecutor, who found Bandazhevsky innocent, was suspended from his case in February.
  We are starting campaign to free professor Yurii Bandzhevsky. Currently we are setting up strategies, and any you cooperation and ideas are welcome.

 


HOW TO BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST?


  14th of April 1997, a joyful company of
  Russians is travelling from Berlin to Prague with train. In border, one of the Russians is singled out since validity period of his visa ended day before. After thorough check he is let through border the next morning, no any sanctions, no fines.
  19.30 in 16th of June, 2001, Jдrntorget of Gothenburg in Sweden. Riot police surrounds peaceful demonstration against police brutality, and singles out people to be arrested, places them to buses. From group of Russians arrested, Artem Chlenov is separated and not freed with the others.
  Two small, seemingly completely separate events may have more in common with each other than the main actor.

  SIS at work
  Schengen Information System, active since 1995, is a common register of police of EU countries. It stores information about criminals, victims of crimes and possible victims of future crimes - definition which propably fits any person whatsoever. SIS stores name, nicknames, description of person and judgement if registered person might be violent or not. SIRENE, appendix of SIS stores information about persons sexual behaviour, habits, friends, political opinions and organisations to which she or he belongs.
  Every friend and acquaintance of Artem Chlenov knows that he is the most peaceful person one can meet. The crime he committed, and why he was put to a special isolation with special procedure "for the sake of national security", is obviously not that he threw a police with a rock 15th of june as claimed. Plenty of people who stood with him far from the police line are ready to testify for him. His real crime is that 1997 he was travelling with a collection of souvenirs from Berlin squats, including provocative Radikal-paper, not a long time before banned by German authorities. A paper from which he is not able to understand a word, since Russian is the only language he speaks.
  Enough proof for being a potential terrorist and to be recorded to SIS and SIRENE anyway. A record which Swedish police picked up more than four years later, and made their conclusions.
  Obviously, German and other international terrorists armed to teeth will be official reality of any coming up international demonstration to be organised in Sweden. As predictable as that these terrorists will always be able to narrowly slip awat from the Swedish officials in the last moment, just like spying submarines during the days of the cold war. But since someone has to be imprisoned anyway, you better not travel in EU with wrong papers, wrong company, wrong ideas or wrong clothes. All these are enough reason to record you to SIS and SIRENE, to be the next international terrorist to be locked up.
  Antti Rautiainen
webpage of campaign to free Artem Chlenov:
http://www.tao.ca/~dikobraz/freeartem


CASPIAN SEA KILLED BY OIL DRILLING


  It seems that everyone have silently agreed to give Caspian Sea away to the oil industry. All so called environmental programs held there be companies and intergovernmental organizations seem to be more a mockery. It seems that no one really counts how many oil spills occurred there lately. Near the sites where oil has been extracted for the last 100 years, like near Baku, Azerbjan, the soil itself is soaked up with oil. Oil that was discovered several years ago in other parts of Caspian sea unleashed drilling fever that may kill all of the remaining wildlife - starting with Caspian sturgeon, seals and ending up with something as common as sprats. For couple of last years scientists have registered several massive deaths of Caspian wildlife, for example, seals.
  In June the death of more than 250 thousands of tons of sprats in Caspian Sea was reported. This amount is equal to annual sprat fishing quota of all Caspian states, and 40 % of all contemporary Caspian sprat stock.
  The sprat death is blamed on jellyfish like organism mnemiopsis. Its jelly covers up large area of sea surface choking up the fish. Mnemiopdsis itself has flourished because of the heavy pollution of the seawater.
  Large quantities of oil and heavy metals were found in the dead sprats. According to experts, the sprats' extinction in two-three years will lead to extinction of Caspian sturgeon, as sprat is the base for their feeding chain.
  Corporations involved in Caspian drilling are:
BP Amoco
Exxon Mobile
Philips Petroleum
British Gas
Agip
Shell


POCKET JOURNALISTS FOR THE GOVERNMENT


  In June we witnessed another attempt to create loyal to government pocket movement. After environmental and civic organizations turn came to journalists.
  The event held in St-Petersburg had a loud name of Media forum and had a purpose of founding Media Soyuz (Media Union, to translate from Russian). It had a purpose to create and alternative to the already existing Journalist Union - well known, but too active and independent from authorities. The founders did not even try to conceal the true purpose of the new union - to support governmental initiatives and to create favorable informational environment for them. Opposition and criticism are not welcomed, they said, while guest speaker - Presidents representative in North-West Russia Cherkesov (known for Alexander Nikitin prosecution) called on journalists for self-regulation (read self-censoring).
  The meeting claimed to have gathered most prominent journalists, while in reality these were mostly governmental PR flacks and government-fed journalists. Some of them, like Media Soyuz head Alexander Lyubimov, some 14-12 years ago gained their prominence and reputation for doing bold programs at the dawn of Russian democracy era. (It seems that today this era have moved to dusk). The times have changed, and so have done the former heroes of democracy, selling their credibility for good money.
  To get some real working journalists well-funded PR-venture decided to buy the only statewide environmental journalism contest "Ecology of Russia". Regional journalists invited to the award ceremony were supposed to form Guild of environmental journalists within Media Soyuz. They were not even informed to what event besides awards were they coming to. Fortunately, no one was fooled and thus eager to join the "Loyal Journalists Society".
  However, the created structure may be harmful, trying to monopolize the journalists (like it was in Soviet times with the Writers Union - one should be a member of it to be considered a writer) and misrepresenting the position of journalists' community both in the country and abroad.


REPLANTING THE OAKS ON RUSSIA


  The first meeting of SEU Forest Campaign new program "The oaks of Russia" aimed on oak grove restoration took place in Yaroslavl. Yaroslavl is and old historic city - one of the cities of the so-called "Golden Ring".
  This historic place was chosen on purpose as program principles are based on the recognition of oak and oak grove cultural and historic, as well as ecological values.
  In many cases oak groves or odd trees are part of cultural and historical landscape of the region.
  One may remember the sacred groves of Marii-El or Chuvashia. Another, more so to say down to earth example are the groves that were used by Peter the Great for ship building - we still may find the remnants of those in Novgorod Region, NW of Russia.
  Speaking from environmental point of view, oak grove place in temperate zone may be compared to that of the rainforests in the tropical zone - for their richness in biodiversity and other ecosystem forming functions. Unfortunately, the speed of oak grove degradation is comparable to the rainforests elimination speed, while the oak grove number is significantly lower than that of the rainforests. In fact, the situation is as bad as according to some estimations, oak groves may vanish completely by the year 2042. Already they have lost their full capacity for self-restoration and now human help is needed.
  The disastrous situation has several causes - primarily, that the best tress were cut for shipbuilding and other construction purposes, as well as in many cases the oak forests were cut to free the land for agricultural purposes.
  The "Oaks of Russia" gathered different people - professional ecologists, people who care what happens around their place, study its nature and history, people working with children. It is remarkable that children and youth organizations got involved actively in the program attracted very specific and concrete activities like planting young trees and caring for them.
  Representatives from Novgorod and region, Kostroma, Vologda region, Marii-el, Yaroslavl and Yaroslavl region, Moscow discussed the situation and shared ideas how to improve it.
  It turned out that quite many people are eager to work on replanting the oaks, but what is needed is a simple and comprehensive manual for oak planting and caring. The oak specifics are that it is very vulnerable in its first years - starting from acorns that are to be stored carefully and more than for a year preserved from drying or being eaten by rodents. First several years oaks also demand specific care. By the way, this is actually one of the reasons why foresters prefer to plant pine and spruce - not to mention that in contemporary Russian forestry spruce and pine are most popular species having highest commercial value. Currently SEU Forest Campaign works on such manual, and meeting discussions added quite a lot to it.
  Participants also set up some strategies for the next step activities - like work with different level officials. One of the problems in oak grove conservation and restoration is to get officials to understand and recognize the seriousness of the problem. Only then it will be much easier to solve different problems connected to the land for oak planting and remaining oak grove conservation. Regarding this issue meeting participants decided to address Forest Department of the Ministry of Nature resources asking for oak restoration activity support.
  The meeting also agreed on constant information exchange, mutual consultations, as well as on oak acorn exchange.
  As one of the main meeting outcome we should note that the network of organizations working on oak grove conservation and restoration has started to form and to work.


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