Kemerovo authorities ban construction of coal loading station, crack down on protesters

Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” continues to monitor the situation in the village of Cheremza, Kemerovo region, where on June 13, 2020, local residents began their peaceful protest against the activities of “Kuznetskiy Yuzhny” coal mining company, which had started building its coal loading complex near residential buildings without getting proper authorization. For two and a half months now “Kuznetsky Yuzhny” open-pit mine was unable to convince residents of the settlements adjacent to Cheremza, who protested against construction of the coal loading station that loading operations were not hazardous for the environment and human health. Multiple attempts to re-start construction works ended in stand off between protesters and representatives of the mining company. As a result, construction was stopped and the company’s construction equipment was removed from the site.

On August 21, it was reported that Sergey Tsivilev, governor of Kemerovo region, has revoked the permit for building the coal loading station in Cheremza. He stated that the reason for this was insufficient effort on the part of the coal company to establish dialogue with the local population. Construction works were thus officially banned.

However, on the very next day, August 22, police arrived at the protesters’ camp. Police officers announced to one of the activists that she was summoned to the local police department in order to draw up a protocol for violation of the rules for holding a mass rally (Article 20.2 Section 5 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) following a “rally” on August 13. Some protesters were charged with violating several articles of the Administrative Code, one of them being Vyacheslav Krechetov, journalist and eco-activist who covered the events in Cheremza. On August 24, Krechetov was detained by the police, and on August 25, the Central district court of Novokuznetsk fined him (for 20,000 rubles) for violation of Article 2 on charges of organizing a mass stay of citizens, which entailed a violation of public order, and on August 26 – for another 1,000 rubles for violation of Article 19.3 (disobedience to a lawful request of a police officer). The trials of other activists have already been held, five of the protesters have been fined for 25,000 rubles for violation of Article 20.18. The rest of the cases are yet to be considered by the courts in the coming days in the towns of Myski and Novokuznetsk.

Despite the de facto recognition by the authorities of the Kemerovo region that the activities of the “Kuznetskiy Yuzhny” coal mine were illegal, the law enforcement agencies continue to crack down on activists and local residents who oppose the mining company’s operations.

Photo by Vyachelav Krechetov

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