Russia: Indigenous cooperative is persecuted by State authoritiesPublished by MAC on 2012-12-11
Source: Statement (2012-12-28)
A Russian indigenous peoples' cooperative has been attacked by state armed forces, alleging that it has been illegally extracting precious stones - an offence which it vigorously denies .
MAC Editorial note: This message is circulated and verified by the Russian indigenous peoples' organisation RAIPON.
To safeguard those involved in issuing it, no names have been used. We are grateful to the English translator (who also prefers to remain anonymous).
Protect the Evenki cooperative "Dylacha"
Information received via RAIPON
28 November 2012
The patrimonial Evenki cooperative (obshchina) "Dylacha" was founded in 1992 in Bauntovski Evenkiisky District in the North-East of Buryatia, an autonomous republic located on lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.
The Evenks are an indigenous people with a population of 30,000 widely dispersed over several regions of Siberia and approximately the same number living ina Northern China. Traditionally, the Evenks' livelihood consists of fishing, reindeer herding, hunting and gathering.
Indigenous cooperatives, known in Russian as "obshchinas" are clan or village-based small enterprises, which in many indigenous settlement areas constitute the sole providers of employment, income and services.
They are thus of vital importance to Russia's indigenous small peoples of the North, Siberia and the Far East, which constitute one of the country's most marginalised and vulnerable groups.
The cooperative "Dylacha" (Evenk for "sun") is one of the economically most successful "obshchinas" of Russia.
It pursues traditional economic activities such as reindeer husbandry and hunting. Furthermore, it holds a license (UDE ¹ 00153) for exploiting a nephrite deposit in Bauntovski district. Nephrite is an ornamental stone used in carvings, beads, or cut gemstones (a type of jade).
The cooperative employs over 200 people. Counting the Evenki families many of which have many children, several thousand people depend on "Dylacha". The cooperative has also established the foundation "Tatyana", which according to Maria Badmayeva, chair of the national cultural autonomy of the Evenks of Buryatia "has done more for the Evenks during the last few years than the state has through its civil servants".
According to her, the foundation covers higher education costs for 50 students through scholarships. "Dylacha" provides substantial charitable assistance to the indigenous population. In the village of Ust-Jilinda, social housing was built and mini-tractors provided to the inhabitants. In Kurumkanski district, houses were built for Evenks free of charge.
Apart from that, under the auspices of a republic-wide programme "Telegysh" (Evenk for "be sober") initiated by the foundation to combat widespread alcoholism, all alcohol-addicted men from Ulyunkhan village underwent alcohol abstinence trainings. Substantial funds are provided to support cultural activities, collectives and artists. "They are doing a lot for the Evenks. For instance, all our collectives that perform in Moscow are covered by 'Dylacha', not by the state budget."1
In its operations, the cooperative strictly observes Russian legislation, as confirmed by the findings of the audits of supervisory bodies of which there have been hundreds over the last three years.
In August 2012, the state prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia undertook a comprehensive audit of the operations of the cooperative together with the Eastern Baikal environmental prosecutor's office, the Buryat administration of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage (Rosprirodnadzor), the Buryat branch of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs and other supervisory bodies.
Among other matters, the compliance of the cooperative's operations with the conditions of their licence UDE ¹ 00153 was verified. The experts arrived at the unanimous conclusion that the cooperative complied with all licensing conditions and is operating within its concession area.
Nevertheless on 4 October 2012, the premises of the cooperative in the regional capital Ulan-Ude and their production facility "medvezhii" in Bauntovski Evenkiiskii district were raided by unidentified persons.
They were armed and wore camouflage uniforms identifying them as members of an OMON unit of the State Administration of Internal Affairs of the City of Moscow. OMON stands for "Special Purpose Mobile Unit" and denotes a system of special police units within the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Their faces were disguised with masks, and they were assisted by local secret service members.
In the premises of the cooperative's office, the masked persons rounded all staff members up in the corridor, and policemen started confiscating documents and electronic data storage devices.
The cooperative provided three copying machines to the service members in order to take copies of the confiscated documents; however a policy major declined using them, without justification.
At the same time, on 4 October 2012, two helicopters carrying members of the Interior Ministry of Russia together with representatives of commercial structures landed on the cooperative's production ground "Medvezhi" in Bauntovski Evenkiiski District. All staff members were rounded up at gunpoint in the workers village and locked up.
The director of the production facility S. N. Yamburov and the chief geologist, D.A. Goncharov were locked up in the changing room. They were not allowed to leave, no-one was allowed to see them, neither were they granted their right to make a phone call. On the following day, the two were taken away by policemen in a helicopter without their consent to an undisclosed location.
Until the present, the staff of the cooperative and the relatives of Yamburov and Goncharov have been unable to see the detained. In the middle of November, the investigating authorities of Buryatia informed Yamburov's wife, that her husband was under custody of a "witness protection programme" and therefore no meeting with him was possible.
Yamburov is of advanced age and suffers from a cardiovasculare condition. Therefore, his relatives are highly concerned about his health.
The cooperative has been faced with the accusation of extracting nephrite outside of their concession, to an estimated value of 600 million roubles. This accusation has not been backed up in any way. Furthermore, the absurd claim was made that the theft had been committed by "unidentified members of the management of the cooperative".
The list of the members of the management is publicly accessible and not very long. During the initial examination, not a single representative of the management was questioned, thus no attempt was undertaken to identify a suspect.
Three days later, the Interior Ministry's investigator for the Republic of Buryatia V.S. Voitovich ordered the confiscation of the nephrite for the purpose of conducting a mineralogical examination.
For such an examination, samples would have had to be taken from each container and the nephrite stocks would have had to be weighed. Instead, the entire nephrite was confiscated. Police service members prevented members of the cooperative from taking video footage of this action.
It remains unknown how the investigator determined that the entire nephrite stocks in the production facility had been extracted illegally.
The Interior Ministry has confirmed that the confiscated nephrite is kept at the depots of the mining company "Russkaya Nefritovaya Kompaniya", a competitor of "Dylacha". In an interview, the director of this company, Viktor Petrov, also confirmed this while at the same time denying any conflict of interest.2
The management of the cooperative "Dylacha" believes that these actions are the raiders' response to the successful legal defence measures taken by the cooperative towards the cancellation of the results of a commercial tender over geological exploration and nephrite mining rights held in May 2012. The concession areas put out to tender are situated within the hunting territories held by the cooperative.
Complaints and protests by the cooperative "Dylacha" addressed to the State Prosecutor of the Republic of Buryatia denouncing the illegal measures taken by the police and the investigating authorities have not been considered.
On 20 October 2012, members of the public held a picket in support of "Dylacha" in Ulan-Ude under the slogan "Indigenous peoples against corruption".
On 19 November, a public hearing was held in the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, where the management of the cooperative along with experts and lawyers presented evidence of their full compliance with legislation and of the illegal character of the actions taken by police forces and investigating authorities. The present members of the Civic Chamber unanimously supported the cooperative.
The management of the cooperative and all present declared that the illegally detained staff members S.N. Yamburov and D.A. Goncharov must be released immediately and the illegally confiscated nephrite has to be returned to the obshshina.
The violations committed by the law-enforcement bodies during the arrest of Yamburov and Goncharov as well as the illegal searches and confiscations of documents and assets must be investigated by the Federal Court.