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SBD Global/December 19, 2013/Olympics

Environmentalists, Journalists Pay Price For Sochi Winter Olympics Criticism

Environmentalists, activists and journalists in Sochi "have spent years exposing the dark side" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's showcase Winter Games -- and now they are paying the price, according to Nataliya Vasilyeva of the AP. In recent months, "these campaigners have been detained, put on trial and even barred from going to the beach." With the Olympics less than two months away, "authorities are stepping up the pressure as these men and women refuse to back down in their fight to shed light on what they insist has been the destruction of the environment and a way of life." In a recent report, Human Rights Watch "called local authorities directly responsible for the campaign of harassment against activists in the Krasnodar region, which includes Sochi." Rights groups have lamented Russia's human rights record for years, but critics say that "the tactics in Sochi are extreme even by this country's notoriously overbearing standards." Human Rights Watch researcher Yulia Gorbunova said, "Authorities in the Krasnodar region are harassing the environmentalists and activists who dare to speak critically of them in the context of the preparations for the Olympics in Sochi." Krasnodar government spokesperson Anna Minkova said that authorities were "not aware of the instances of the harassment of civil activists" that the AP brought forward (AP, 12/17). Some of the local activists and journalists at the front lines.
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