An Appeal in Defence of Suren Gazaryan

27 November 2012

By Boris Altshuler

Letter to the World Scientific Community 

To Whom It May Concern

With this appeal I hereby ask you to address the below letter in defence of Russian scientist and environmentalist Suren Gazaryan, who is under threat of a lengthy prison term, to President Putin. 

I have been a participant in the human rights movement in the former USSR and Russia since the early 1970s. During the last 16 years I have concentrated on the protection of children’s rights, although I have also devoted my time and efforts to other fields as well. I can testify that saving a child in modern Russia is as difficult as saving a dissident or a Jewish refusenik from persecution by the KGB in the USSR. But we managed to do it earlier, and we do it now.

I can also testify that a restoration of Cold War policy is taking place in Russia today, evidenced by the new law providing for an unlimited broadening of the notion of State Treason, the banishing of USAID, and the ‘Foreign Agents’ law on NGOs which would bring such human rights groups as Right of the Child, Moscow Helsinki Group, or Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers to financial bankruptcy. The next logical step will be arrests under any pretext. That is why Suren Gazaryan’s case is so important.

Please help to save him. 

Contact Suren Gazaryan through Evgeniya Chirikova:

<>, <>

Boris Altshuler
Senior researcher in the Theoretical Physics Department of the P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 
Head of the ‘Right of the Child’ NGO, 
Member Moscow Helsinki Group, 
Member of Civic Chamber of Russian Federation (according to President Medvedev’s Decree from September 2011) 


To President of Russia Vladimir Putin 
Kremlin, Moscow, Russian Federation 

Cc: Mr. Yuriy Chaika 

General Public Prosecutor of the Russian Federation 
GSP-3, 15a B. Dimitrovka Street 

125993, Moscow, Russian Federation 

Russian Federation Ambassador to the US Sergey I. Kislyak 
2650 Wisconsin Avenue NW 
Washington DC 20007 

US Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFaul 
Novinsky blv., 17/23, Moscow, Russian Federation, 121099 

Dear Mr. President!

We are writing to you because of the threat of arrest looming over the prominent Russian environmentalist Suren V. Gazaryan. Suren Gazaryan is a senior researcher at the Institute of the Environment of Mountain Territories of the Kabardino-Balkarian Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Science. He has a PhD in biology and is the author of 50 academic works. Suren Gazaryan is 34 years old and has two daughters. On August 26, Suren Gazaryan was charged with threatening to kill three armed guards of the so-called ‘Palace of Putin’ (on the Black Sea coast in Krasnodar Region). He had been investigating the damage to the environment and the public interest associated with this building.

In 2011 Suren Gazaryan received the special prize ‘For Protection of the Russian Environment’ for his dedicated work in defence of the environment, awarded by the Council for Sustained Development of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, jointly with the Russian Ecological Union and the Rosecopress Association. Suren Gazaryan is co-author of the Red Lists of Krasnodar Territory and the Republics of Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and Rostov Region. He also represents the Russian scientific committee under the UNEP/Eurobats international agreement.

This is not the first instance of prosecution of Suren Gazaryan for environmental work that is not welcomed by high-ranking Russian officials. On June 20, 2012, Suren Gazaryan, along with ecologist Yevgeny G. Vitishko, was given a three-year suspended sentence for their joint public campaign against the destruction of the Red-Listed Pitsunda pines and the seizure of forest and coastal land for the building of a dacha for the head of Krasnodar Territory, Alexander Tkachyov, in Blue Bay (Jubga village). But now, when the so-called ‘Palace of Putin’ is involved, the situation is much more serious. Suren Gazaryan is under real threat of a court judgment that may sentence him to three years in prison. 

Dear Mr. President, we do not know if the so-called ‘Palace of Putin’ is one of your present residencies, or if this title reflects previous ownership of this resort by the Department of Presidential Affairs. But we do know that the prosecution of environmental activists and human rights defenders deprives Russia of any hope of overcoming the increasing unaccountability of a corrupted bureaucracy. 

And you surely know about the problems of justice in Russia. On more than one occasion you have spoken out about the need for judges to be  independent, and for fair trial. These are goals for the future, but they are not the reality of modern Russia. The only ‘witnesses’ of the threats that Suren Gazaryan is alleged to have made to the guards of the ‘Palace of Putin’ are the guards themselves. But it would be naïve to rely upon an impartial investigation of the case by the Court. That is why the threat of detention and imprisonment of Suren Gazaryan is absolutely real. And that is why we are appealing to you in defence of Suren V. Gazaryan.