Description of an incident where computers were removed from the offices of the Baikal Environmental Wave

Feature story - 2 February, 2010
This last January 28th, 2010, at around 3.40 in the afternoon, a group of six men entered into our organization's office and created a ruckus. One of them-we discovered later-was Dmitry Dmitrich Smolyakov, who works with the state's Counter-Terrorism Office (CTO).

A group of six men entered into our organization's office and created a ruckus.

He came in with a video-camera in hand, and was heard to say with some glee: "Hello there, we're here to do some real confiscating, 'cause we're with the special police."

At that time there were only two people in the downstairs office, one of them Ksenia (a student volunteer with the Wave), and the other Jennie Sutton (one of the original co-founders of the Wave). At first, it seemed to Ksenia that this must be some kind of practical joke. But the six men quickly spread out around the two-story office building, and it quickly proved impossible to follow each one of them and verify what they were doing.

Those in view began by unplugging all the computers in the office, at the same time asking some rather provocative questions. They did this without showing any kind of police badge or any documentation that would have justified their purpose in entering our public-interest organization. It was only after some time that any document was presented, and this was shown to us by officials from the Consumer Protection Division within the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The letter that the latter presented to us was dated from January 27, 2010, and was written by one Mr. D. I. Latyshev (who, in the letter, states that he is presently unemployed, and was born in the year 1977). In this letter he states that: "Swhile I was in the office of the non-profit Baikal Environmental Wave organization, it was noted by me that there were, in my opinion, several unlicensed versions of Windows soft-ware systems installed on the computers in this aforementioned office."

When the question was posed by us at the Wave about why there were representatives of the Counter-Terrorism Office in our office, the answer that was given was that they were there to make confiscations of materials and protect them (?!). But for us it was obvious that the main objective in descending on our office was, first, to take some video-film footage, and then to provoke our office workers with phrases such as: "OK, we're going to hit these fascists where it hurts. If you guys insist on coming out in public against your government, if you all participate in all these meetings that criticize government authorities, thenS.." These phrases were all made in a very loud voice, accompanied by some very intense gesticulations.

Kseniya herself was quite frightened by the special police's behaviour, especially when Mr. Smolyakov announced to her that her career was finished at the moment he took away her student ID card.

At the same time, all the computer hardware-including the organization's server (where the web-site for the Wave is stored) were unplugged and brought down to the first floor.

At this point, we have to say that all of the operating systems used by our organization have long since been licensed and registered; or they are software systems that do not require licensing. However, when we offered to show all the licensing documents and also show the licensing verification within the computers themselves, we were met with the following response: "We don't need to see your documentation, we're not specialists, this is for the experts to look into." Yet in the officially written citation-report of the incident, it was stated that: "Sduring the investigation no documentation proving the legal use of these computer programs was offered by those in the office."

Also, in the same official citation-report the police officials hurried to point out that: "Sno statement was given by the office workers, nor any comments given when the confiscation was carried out." Of course, this all could have been because there was no request for comments made during the search, and no citation-report or other documentation given for us to sign. Only later (21 hours later to be exact) did we manage to look at and receive copies of this citation-report, after we went to the prosecutor's office accompanied by our lawyer.

In point of fact, when we informed them at the time that we wanted to make a statement for the report, we were denied the right to make such a statement. And at the moment when the special police were getting ready to take away the computers, there was no official document shown that would legally mandate the confiscation of our property; nor, for that matter, was any warrant shown for searching our premises.

To keep them from confiscating all the computers without a warrant, one of the co-leaders of the Wave (Galina Kulebyakina) had quickly decided to close one of the office doors on the first floor. No-one was able to close the doors to the second-floor offices, however. The bottom-floor door remained closed for all of three minutes; after the police officials warned that this was an illegal action, and the door was opened up. Still, this served as the basis of the claim made by these officials of the CTO that they were forcefully resisted while present in the Wave offices.

This overall claim was filed with the prosecutor's office for Sverdlovsk County. When investigators later came to our office from the prosecutor's division, their visit was quite prolonged, and ended with an "invitation" to all parties having any connection to the Baikal Wave to come to their government offices and offer their explanations.

We believe that the confiscation of our computers was done only to stop or interfere with our work, and deny us the opportunity of exercising our rights and responsibilities to the public as citizen members of a public-interest environmental group. At present, we are intent on defending the interests of the public at large, especially here in the Irkutsk oblast, as well as the rights of everyone in Russia to be secure in knowing that our unique ecosystem at Lake Baikal is being protected. In particular, we are defending the right the city of Baikalsk to plan out its own, sustainable future.

It is public knowledge that the Wave has already begun to plan for public hearings in defense of Baikal, with three specific objectives in mind:

1) To assess, comprehensively and accurately, all the technical processes that have characterized the work of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant (without such an assessment we are sure that the toxic releases from this Plant will be fraught with disaster for the environment);

2) To engage in a public environmental impact review of Edict No.1, as issued by the Russian Federal government, which would legalize the release of paper and cellulose waste products into Baikal itself, as well as permit the storage and incineration of some of these industrial and other wastes right on the lake's shores; andSS 3) On another front, to help rescind the decision to allow the construction of two new atomic industry facilities in the region around the city of Angarsk (these facilities would include a national center for uranium enrichment as well as an international center for uranium enrichment).

********************

Note about our work: At this point in time, the Baikal Environmental Wave is, or has been, engaged in supporting such environmentally benign projects and public enterprises as:

a)- promoting the growth of ecotourism in the city of Baikalsk;

b)- promoting improvements in the efficient use of energy as well as the rational use of alternative sources of energy;

c)- making improvements in the system of environmental education in our region, so that it lends more credence to the need for sustainable development at all levels;

d)- bringing in new student communities into a program for monitoring and ensuring the fact that our natural resources are used wisely and the environment managed correctly;

e)- disseminating information about key environmental issues, principally through the publication of our regular journal (the , which to this day is the only environmental magazine in our region);

f)- confronting plans to build a large oil pipeline right on the shores of Lake Baikal, a pipeline that since has been diverted north to Yakutia (where several large oil spill accidents have already occurred in the space of a few months); and

g)- supporting the academic and research work of many Russian scientists and students, as well as providing work experience to countless numbers of Russian and international volunteers.

On our Baikal Wave web-site (which is not operating now thanks to the actions taken by those representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs), one can find annual reports describing every phase of our work. Usually you could also find all the details about our funding sources and all the resources we use to perform our work.

Currently our staff is led by three co-chairs: Lyudmila Koshkaryova, Galina Kulebyakina, and Marina Rikhvanova. Marina is a recent winner of the international Goldman Environmental Prize, and is listed in the All-Russian Encyclopedia as one of the "best people of Russia". She has also received the "Green Person of the Year" medal for her work in defense of Russia's environment.

IMPORTANT REQUEST:

We ask that all concerned citizens write or send faxes to the following addressee: Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs office in Irkutsk, Mr. Aleksei Alekseevich Antonov at

15 Litvinov Street 664003 Irkutsk

Fax (3952) 212423 28

You can write about the following, if you will:

"In January of this year 2010 two representatives from your Office of Consumer Protection (Mr. Alexander Valentinovich Renasov and Mr. Vasilii Ivanovich Eliseyev) appeared in the offices of the Baikal Environmental Wave, a local non-profit organization. They were accompanied by officials from the state Counter-Terrorism Office, which included Dmitrii Dmitrivich Smolyakov and Dmitrii Valerevich Putyato, who also took video-footage of the Wave office.

These representatives did not have any form of official warrant or other documentation justifying or stating the purpose of their presence in the Wave's offices. These representatives seized some 11 computers that belong to this public-interest organization. They also confiscated one personal computer belonging to Jennifer Sutton.

These representatives showed no interest in seeing any documentation regarding the licensing of the soft-ware programs in use on these computers. However, due to their actions, this public organization is left without a website server and also without the means to accomplish their work in the foreseeable future.

The actions taken by these Ministry of Internal Affairs representatives can only be construed as an attempt to interrupt and impede the work that a leading, internationally-respected environmental group in Irkutsk is trying to perform in protecting the natural environment of Lake Baikal.

We request that the confiscated computers be returned without delay. We also ask that an investigation be put into place as to the legality of the actions taken by the fore-mentioned officials, there in the Baikal Wave's offices.

Thank you for going forth with this.

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