Socio-ecological Union

The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 1(35), January, 2003

SEU Times is a newsletter devoted to environmental news, events, NGO work within former Soviet Union territory. Currently it is mailed out on special occasions.

MORE NEWS IN ENGLISH FROM SEU-TERRITORY are available on Ecoport - green news project English version at





  Civil society activist and ecologist Farid Tukhbatullin was arrested on 23 December 2002 in the city of Dashoguz, in Northern Turkmenistan. He was flown to the capital Ashgabat and is currently being held at the Ministry of National Security, where he is believed to be at risk of torture.
  In a statement issued shortly after his arrest, fellow civil society activists in Turkmenistan expressed serious concern about his wellbeing: "[We believe that] his life is in real danger...His a result of the continuing mass repressions in Turkmenistan that remind us...of the terrible times under Stalin." They added: "In order to protect his life every public statement and every letter of support is important."
  Reportedly, Farid Tukhbatullin was charged on 26 December with illegally crossing the Turkmen-Uzbek border (Article 214 of the Criminal Code of Turkmenistan) and concealing a serious criminal act (Article 212). No evidence is known that would substantiate either of the charges. The latter charge allegedly referred to his participation in a conference, held at the beginning of November in Moscow that had been organized by human rights groups. He has reportedly been accused of refusing to disclose information about the plans of exiled opposition groups who, along with human rights organizations, attended the conference. Amnesty International believes that the charges against Farid Tukhbatullin were brought to punish him for exercising his internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and for his peaceful activities as a civil society activist.
  In the past, Farid Tukhbatullin has frequently been harassed by the authorities. For example, on 9 December 2002, he was summoned to the regional branch of the Ministry of National Security and questioned about his participation at the conference in Moscow. A senior official told him: "We cannot forbid you to take part in conferences like that, but I hope you know what that can lead to."
  Farid Tukhbatullin's arrest is reportedly the first arrest of a civil society activist in an ongoing wave of repression triggered by an attack on the President's motorcade on 25 November 2002. His arrest sends out a worrying signal to the small community of civil society activists in Turkmenistan, who to date have carried out their activities under considerable pressure of harassment and intimidation.

  Since the Central Asian state of Turkmenistan gained independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, President Saparmurad Niyazov has exercised a monopoly on power as both head of state and head of government. Although Turkmenistan ratified several important United Nations treaties related to human rights, no dissent can be voiced without repercussions; all media outlets are strictly state-controlled, no human rights groups can openly function within the country, and reports about the torture and ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners continue.
  The 25 November 2002 attack on Saparmurad Niyazov's motorcade that left the President unharmed led to a new wave of repression in Turkmenistan. On 29 December, at least four opposition leaders and prime suspects for the attack were sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment by the country's Supreme Court at a trial that fell far short of international standards; three of them were sentenced in absentia. Scores of family members of several known government critics who were implicated by the authorities in the attack have faced detention, harassment and house eviction. Amnesty International is concerned about reports that many of them were targeted solely because of their family relations with government opponents. Despite difficulties in obtaining information from this almost closed country, the arrests have been accompanied by credible reports of ill-treatment of many of the detainees (for more information see UA 353/02, AI Index: EUR 61/006/2002, 6 December 2002). Amnesty International is concerned that torture and ill-treatment are routinely used by the authorities to intimidate and extract 'confessions'.
  RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English, Russian, Turkmen or your own language:

  • expressing concern at the arrest of Farid Tukhbatullin, the co-chairman of the Ecological Club in Dashoguz;
  • calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
  • urging the authorities to ensure that Farid Tukhbatullin is treated in accordance with international human rights law, in particular, that he is not tortured or ill-treated;
  • stating that you believe that Farid Tukhbatullin was arrested to punish him for exercising his internationally recognized right to freedom of expression and for peacefully carrying out his work as a civil society activist.

  APPEALS TO (Please note that it may be difficult to send faxes. If a voice answers during office hours, repeat 'fax' until connected; fax machines may be switched off outside office hours four hours ahead of GMT; if your fax does not go through, please send it by airmail):

  President of Turkmenistan,
  Saparmurad Atayevich NIYAZOV
  Turkmenistan; 744000 g. Ashgabat;
  Apparat Prezidenta; Prezidentu Turkmenistana
  Telegrams: Turkmenistan, 744000 Ashgabat, Prezidentu
  Faxes: + 993 12 35 51 12 / 51 17 55
  Salutation: Dear President

  Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan,
  Rashit Ovezgeldiyevich MEREDOV17/07/01
  Turkmenistan; 744000 g. Ashgabat; pr. Magtymguly, 83; Ministerstvo
  inostrannykh del Turkmenistana; Ministru MEREDOVU R.; TURKMENISTAN
  Telegrams: Turkmenistan, 744000 Ashgabat, Ministru inostrannykh del
  Faxes: + 993 12 35 42 41
  Salutation: Dear Minister

  Procurator General of Turkmenistan, Gurbanbibi ATAJANOVA
  Turkmenistan; g. Asghabat; ul. Seidi, 4; Prokuratura Turkmenistana;
  Generalnomu prokuroru;
  Telegrams: Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Generalnomu prokuroru
  Faxes: + 993 12 35 44 82
  and to diplomatic representatives of Turkmenistan accredited to your country.

  PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 18 February 2003.

  More information is available at



  Press Release

  Pacific Environment
  Sakhalin Environment Watch

  Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk,Russia, January 8, 2003
  Environmentalists are demanding that Shell and Exxon-Mobil meet world-class oil and gas environmental standards offshore of Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East, just north of Japan.
  50 Environmental organizations from Russia, the U.S., Japan, and Europe have sent the written demands to the two oil giants., arguing that until they fully comply with these minimal criteria, the Sakhalin projects should not be allowed to move forward. The demands were also sent to government agencies, international financial institutions, and shareholders who have provided the financing that make the projects possible.
  The demands are designed to ensure that Shell's and ExxonMobil's actions on Sakhalin will not harm the fragile ecosystems and the rich fisheries off the shore of Sakhalin. The demands also ask the companies to protect rare and endangered species including the Western Pacific Gray Whale - of which less than 100 remain - who depend on the area being developed for oil and gas for its primary feeding area 6 months of the year.
  "The fish that sustain us and our local economy depends on a clean environment," said Dmitry Lisitsyn, chair of Sakhalin Environment Watch, a local environmental organization that advocates for responsible development. "We live off of salmon and crab. Less than 100 Western Pacific Gray Whales remain. We don't want to sacrifice these to oil pollution caused by Shell and ExxonMobil."
  The demands follow a September 2002 investigative article in the Wall Street Journal that demonstrated that neither Shell nor ExxonMobil are meeting standards or regulations that they would be required to meet in similarly fragile environments in Alaska or other parts of the United States. The article was a runner-up for the prestigious John B. Oakes Award for distinguished environmental journalism. The New York Times, in an editorial, also questioned whether the oil industry was looking at Russia as a "cheap date."
  "Environmental organizations are united in demanding that Shell and ExxonMobil can't treat Russia's environment differently than they would treat the environment in the United States," said Catriona Glazebrook, Executive Director of Pacific Environment, which protects the living environment around the Pacific Rim.
  Environmental organizations are demanding that Shell and Exxon protect endangered gray whales by modifying construction and drilling plans, protect salmon by adopting better pipeline construction standards, ensure better oil spill prevention and response measures, protect fisheries by moving to a "zero discharge" standard, stop plans for winter transport of oil through treacherous sea ice, improve public participation and access to information processes, and increase the socio-economic benefits to the people of Sakhalin.
  "If Shell and ExxonMobil do not comply with these common-sense demands, they will expose their own hypocrisy," said David Gordon, Associate Director of Pacific Environment who has worked in partnership with Sakhalin environmentalists to monitor oil and gas development. "Shell and ExxonMobil are treating Russia like a third-world resource colony. If they don't comply with these demands, then these projects should not be financed by international taxpayers or allowed to move forward by the Russian government. The projects are simply too environmentally risky for investors and for the people of Russia,
  Public financial institutions including the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation are financing the Sakhalin projects with taxpayer money.
  The environmental problems of the Sakhalin oil and gas projects are attracting high-level attention and concern within the Russian government. In a meeting with scientists last August, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "We have many questions and problems on the Sakhalin shelf in association with the development of the shelf." Later in the same meeting, Putin complained that foreign companies were not even meeting standards required of Russian companies and said, "We also need to place these conditions on our partners who work on our [Sakhalin] Shelf. Absolutely."
  Fifty environmental organizations have endorsed the demands, including Sakhalin Environment Watch, Pacific Environment, World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenpeace, Environmental Defense, Earth Island Institute, the Socio-Ecological Union, the Center for Russian Environmental Policy, Friends of the Earth-Japan, Wild Salmon Center, Cook Inlet Keepers, Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility, and the Russian "Living Seas" Coalition.

  For More Information, contact:
  David Gordon, +1-510-541-5334,
  Catriona Glazebrook, +1-510-251-8800,
  Dmitry Lisitsyn, +7 (4242) 74-75-18,

  Complete copy of the demands and some more information on the problem is available at

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  This issue was written and complied by
  Sviatoslav Zabelin - the SEU Council Co-Chair,
  Olga Berlova, Victoria Kolesnikova
  Previous Issues of The SEU Times may be found at
  "The Online Gadfly" at