Yevgeny Vitishko: The political prisoner of the Sochi Olympics

A picture taken on December 28, 2013, shows Environmental Watch ecology group activist Yevgeny Vitishko, standing in front of the new road between Adler and Krasnaya Polyana in the Black Sea resort of Sochi
Environmental Watch ecology group activist Yevgeny Vitishko stands in front of the new road between Adler and Krasnaya Polyana in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in December.
Credit: Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The following piece is from the perspective of Metro World News reporter Alexey Shunaev.

My long day winds down at a cafe. Not many people are about as it’s late, just a few chatting about Russia’s victory in figure skating. But like everything connected with Sochi, talk of politics is never too far away. In Russia, we often have such debates around the kitchen table, fueled by plenty of pickled food and vodka. This time, it’s a coffee shop table, with late night espressos. And when I hear three guys mutter the name “Vitishko,” I ask if I could join in.

Yevgeny Vitishko is the latest Kremlin critic to hit the headlines, or as liberals would say the latest “victim of the regime” – and now perhaps the political prisoner of the Sochi Olympics. I’m updated on who this man is by Natalia, the prettiest of the fervent talkers at the table: “Vitishko is just an ecologist, but quite a brave one. Back in 2011, he found that Alexander Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar Region, had decided to build a house for himself in the middle of a protected forest. Endangered pine trees – listed in the Russian government’s own ‘Redbook’ of species under threat of extinction – were being chopped down inside the fenced-off territory. Yevgeny and an activist Suren Gazaryan found the place and spray-painted some slogans on the fence.”

Natalia’s friend Maxim then jumps into the conversation and continues: “Vitishko was predictably prosecuted and given a suspended three-year jail term. But then a couple of months later, they changed it into a real sentence. Vitishko appealed, but this week the courts have denied to consider the appeal.”

“If they give prison sentences to people who spray-paint on fences, then all of Russia’s children would be in jail,” Natalia adds. “But Tkachev, as governor of Sochi’s region, is one of the most popular people in the world, thanks to helping the Olympics become a reality.”

Becoming more solemn in tone, Natalia gloomily concludes: “They steal not just money, but also three years of Vitishko’s life. He just wanted our forest to be safe.”


Turkey: Voting begins in country's first direct presidential…

Some 53 million people are able to vote in the election, including 2.8 million citizens abroad. Until now, Turkish presidents were elected by parliament.


Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.