Repression in Russia
Another indictment against indigenous shaman Sergey Kechimov
The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticizes the fact that Sergej Kechimov was once again arrested and indicted by the police forces of Surgut in the autonomous district of Chanty-Mansijsk in western Siberia. Kechimov is well known for his commitment to the traditional settlement areas of the indigenous communities of the region – and he is the last “Guardian of the sacred lake Imlor”, from under which the company Surgutneftegas extracts oil. “As an indigenous shaman, Kechimov is committed to protect his holy place – and he has been resisting attempts at forced resettlement for many years. He is the only representative of his community who has not yet left lake Imlor. There are ongoing conflicts with employees of the company Surgutneftegas, who see him as a troublemaker,” stated Regina Sonk, STP expert on indigenous peoples.
On Wednesday evening, Kechimov had been stopped by the traffic police on his way home. He was accused of drunk driving. However, his wife pointed out that he never drinks alcohol. An argument ensued, followed by a violent arrest. Since then, he has been locked up in the police station of the village Fedorowskij. He was charged with “disobedience to a lawful order of a police officer”. One day before his arrest, on December 13, a regional court had found Kechimov guilty of “threats of murder or serious bodily injury” – for which he was sentenced to six months imprisonment. The court proceedings against him had been opened following a dispute with Surgutneftegas employees. In 2017, he had been sentenced on the basis of the same paragraph already – also because of a dispute with employees of the oil company.
“Kechimov is being criminalized in little and inconspicuous steps. However, the goal is clear: the authorities are trying to silence him in the medium and longer term,” Sonk added. In the opinion of Kechimov’s supporters, the misdemeanor proceedings are a pretext for further criminal prosecution. There is the danger of criminal proceedings on the basis of “use of force against a representative of the state authority”, which could lead to a maximum sentence of five years – or even charges based on “use of force aimed to endangers the life or health of a public official”, with a maximum prison sentence of up to 10 years. “Kechimov has been protesting against oil production in the vicinity of sacred lake Imlor – and against environmental pollution in the region – for many years.
The STP is worried about the fact that indigenous spiritual leaders are increasingly targeted with criminal proceedings. Thus, Alexander Gabychev, an indigenous shaman from Yakutia, was forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital.