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Cablegate: Environmental Activists Attacked

VZCZCXRO0068
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3602/01 2041544
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231544Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2311
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4322
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2272
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2587

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003602

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS ATTACKED


MOSCOW 00003602 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On July 21, a group of fifteen thugs
attacked the campsite of environmental activists in Angarsk,
near Lake Baikal, killing one and wounding several others.
The regional Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has
identified 13 suspects, and arrested at least two. The
motives behind the attack are not clear at this point. End
summary.

---------------
Pre-Dawn Attack
---------------

2. (U) On July 15, approximately twenty-two environmental
activists established a camp near Angarsk, near Lake Baikal,
to protest the establishment of an international uranium
enrichment center. Local police reportedly visited the site
on July 20 while investigating graffiti from Antifa, an
anti-fascist organization whose members were participating in
the protest camp. Since the police had no search warrants,
the members of the camp reportedly refused to present their
documents or allow the their belongings to be examined.

3. (U) Several hours later, a group of approximately fifteen
masked thugs, armed with clubs and iron rods, arrived and
beat the protesters, killing 26 year-old Ilya Bondarenko, and
wounding several others. Igor Kozlov, a spokesman for the
protesters, told us July 23 that the attackers had shouted
nationalist and anti-Antifa slogans during the attack.
Approximately thirty minutes later, police and an ambulance
arrived. Bondarenko died in the hospital of a spinal cord
and head injuries. Two other activists underwent operations
and remain hospitalized in serious condition.

-----------------
The Investigation
-----------------

4. (U) Kozlov told us that the police took almost all of the
campers' possessions as evidence, including their tents and
clothes. He claimed that the police were downplaying the
nationalist character of the attackers and had not summoned
any of the activists to the local MVD headquarters to
identify those arrested. The police are investigating the
attack under Article 111 of the Russian Criminal Code
(causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death) and Article
213 (hooliganism). These charges carry maximum sentences of
fifteen and seven years, respectively. Valeriy Gribakin, the
Irkutsk MVD Public Affairs Chief, reportedly said that
"neither those arrested, nor the others identified have
anything to do with (extremist) organizations." The acting
chief of the MVD in Irkutsk oblast told journalists that, "It
is the mass beating of citizens that is important for us, not
the organizations of the attackers and victims."

5. (U) Rosatom, the target of the environmentalists'
protests, issued a statement condemning the attack, which
read in part: "We are shocked with what happened and express
condolences to the family of the activist who was killed...
Rosatom hopes that law enforcement agencies will act quickly
to solve this crime."

6. (U) Aleksandr Petrov of Human Rights Watch speculated to
us July 23 that the attack was possibly motivated neither by
neo-fascist sentiments nor the nuclear issue, but by
hostility of the local police towards the demonstrators,
following their unsuccessful attempt to search the camp
premises. "The fact that the police have so quickly and
unequivocally denied that these thugs had any nationalist or
fascist ties suggests that they are either not serious about
investigating this, or that they really do know because they
have long-standing ties with the attackers." Petrov admitted
that he had no evidence to support his suggestion that the
police and the attackers may have collaborated.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) It is too early in the investigation to know who may
have been behind the attack or, indeed, exactly what
happened. Local environmental groups have rejected
suggestions of some in law enforcement that robbery was the
motive, while the police have been equally adamant that the
perpetrators were not linked to right-wing groups. A
demonstration in Angarsk, scheduled for the evening of July
23, was designed, according to Kozlov, both to mourn the loss
of Bondarenko and keep the media's attention focused on local
law enforcement's handling of the case.

MOSCOW 00003602 002.2 OF 002


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