E.N. Khmeleva, M.Sc. (Law), Rodnik Legal Center
RAIPON has received a letter from Yu.K. Ayvaseda, a well-known poet and reindeer breeder from the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug with a request to assist in solving an old conflict between one of the subdivisions of the LUKOIL company and his family.
In this letter Yu.K. Ayvaseda recalls bitterly all the stages of his desperate struggle with oilmen for his family’s kinship lands when he blocked the illegal attempts to seize the pasture grounds. His neighbors apparently were not as persistent as he was in the struggle for their lands, and at present the pasture grounds of the Ayvasedas have been encircled by licensed oil development sections of land. He is writing now about his family’s mishaps encountered in the recent months.
Below is a passage from his letter.
“The obstacles put by LUKOIL blocking the abovementioned road and preventing our movement from the nomad camp to the native village still prevail.
After all the latest settlement efforts concerning the destruction of bridges and road beds (see the enclosed documents) LUKOIL continues to block us.
Thus, on 30 May 2003 I took my family in our UAZ jeep to the village to do some shopping, have a medical examination, draw my pension and get my wage. My wife, daughter and three grandchildren (the eldest grandson is 13 and the youngest one is 18 months) were in the car with me. In the summer of 2002, LUKOIL destroyed a bridge across the Kushattyakha River. After the interference of the Governor the Company restored it so poorly that the spring flood washed away the bridge abutments on both ends, though the flood level this year was the lowest in the last five years. We tried to make a detour round the Lake Settei (we used to take this road during heavy floods in the past) by an old winter trackway but ran up against 5 (five) newly dugout ditches blocking the way to the village. Anyhow, we managed to build crossings over two of them with difficulty, but werenot able to cross the rest of the ditches.
Exhausted, we came back to the camp, spent the night there and started our trip to Varyegan by a roundabout, long way (700 kilometers) via the towns of Pokachi, Langepas, Megion, Nizhnevartovsk, Raduzhnyi. We managed to return to our camp first on 6 June.
Mr. Leighfrid, General Director of “Kogalymneftegaz”, mentioning another, 230-kilometer long road in his letter, gives false evidence. There used to be a winter trackway with river crossings on ice some time in the past but it exists no longer.
All in all, counting the first day, we covered 1,530 kilometers burning 230 liters of gasoline instead of using a straight 120-kilometer road. I take this kind of ill-treatment as a violation of my family’s constitutional rights”.
Yu.K. Ayvaseda attached copies of his correspondence on this subject with the Okrug’s and district administrations, the inspection report on the winter trackway and river crossings, and the reply of Mr. A.V. Leighfrid, General Director of the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” limited company to the enquiry of A.I. Raishev, Deputy Chairman of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug’s government in charge of indigenous peoples’ problems.
All the documents have been handed over by RAIPON to the Rodnik Legal Center whose lawyers have already defended Yu.K. Ayvaseda’s rights in court handling the case also connected with the destruction of a road by the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” employees.
The assessment of the situation by the Rodnik lawyers is given below:
“The 5th issue (2001) of the journal “Mir korennykh narodov” (“The Indigenous Peoples’ World”) contained the materials about legal actions taken by the public and lawyers to defend civil rights of a representative of indigenous peoples and the Taiga Nenets’ leader, Yu.K. Ayvaseda.
In September 2001, the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” limited company destroyed the only road connecting the nomad camp with the village of Varyegan known to have a hospital, a school, a post-office and a store. At that time Yuriy Ayvaseda had to cut the wheels of an excavator into pieces to prevent the road destruction and curb the illegal activities of the oilmen. A criminal case on ridiculous and farfetched grounds was initiated against Yu.K. Ayvaseda. The public came out in his defense from the illegal criminal persecution. Thanks to the joint competent and active efforts of the public and lawyers the criminal case was dismissed.
Unfortunately, this question has to be raised once again. Yu.K. Ayvaseda has sent an appeal to RAIPON with a request to help him: the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” company again (twice) destroyed the road between the nomad camp and the village in the spring of 2003.
The Company’s actions exasperate the family of Yu.K. Ayvaseda by their total disregard of the rights of the indigenous people’s representatives –not only from a legal point of view but also simply from the standpoint of the ordinary human being.
Having destroyed the only road between the nomad camp and the village the oil company has deprived Ayvaseda’s family members of the chance to receive medical treatment, to go to school, the post-office, the village store, in other words, leaving them bereft of all the minimum conditions required for life and breaking off the only link between the reindeer herders and the “Big World”.
The hypocrisy the executives of the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” company resort to while explaining their actions provokes indignation: “On 8 January 2003 the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” limited company signed economic agreements with heads of kinship land entities Nos. 47 and 39 I.P. Ayvaseda and I.N. Kechimov along with the attached operating Regulations of presence on the territory of a kinship land… By the installation of artificial obstacles on the way of the abovementioned leaders of kinship entities to the oil fields our Company has restricted non-sanctioned entry of non-authorised persons to the territory of licensed areas of the “Kogalymneftegaz” trust of production establishments. By doing so, we have been guided not only by the principle of defense of our enterprise’s interests but also by the principle of complete fulfillment of obligations undertaken with regard to the heads of kinship entities under the Economic Agreements” (letter No. 15-48/243 dated 10 April 2003 from the General Director of the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” company to the Deputy Chairman of the KMAO Government in charge of indigenous peoples’ problems, A.I. Raishev).
As a result of such a casual interpretation of “the fulfillment of obligation” on the part of the executive officers of the “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” company Ayvaseda’s family is unable to leave their kinship land to draw their pensions, to visit a doctor or to do necessary shopping.
The “LUKOIL-Zapadnaya Sibir” company, therefore, hampers realisation of the basic constitutional rights of Yu.K. Ayvaseda’s family members and, above all, the right to life (Article 20 of the RF Constitution), to medical care (Article 41 of the RF Constitution), and to education (Article 43 of the RF Constitution).
Having given the legal assessment of the prevailing situation, it should be emphasised that practically all the pre-court methods of defense have been exhausted, and Yu.K. Ayvaseda will have to defend his constitutional rights in court.