Yuriy Ayvaseda against LUKoil

February 2001
compiled by ANSIPRA (eds.) from various sources

An article on the case of Yuriy Ayvaseda is published in "Mir Korennykh Narodov – Arktika Zhivaya" No. 4, 2000, the newsletter of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North. The English translation of this article can be found at www.raipon.net.

Yuriy Ayvaseda, Nenets reindeer breeder and wellknown writer, has recently been the subject of criminal prosecution for his recent efforts to defend the rights of the indigenous people of the Khanty-Mansiyskiy Autonomous Area, Russian Federation.

According to faxed and telephoned communications from Ayvaseda, on 14 September employees of the Western Siberia-LUKoil oil company began to destroy the road connecting the Nenets nomad camps with the village. For some indigenous families, this threatened to cut off their access to medical help, shops, schools and other vital state services and facilities. According to Ayvaseda, the oil concern has tried similar tactics previously. Ayvaseda’s attempts to prevent the destruction of the road on 14 September by damaging the wheels of an excavator were being treated by the authorities as a criminal offence.

This was a blatant attempt to besmirch the reputation of an internationally recognised leader of the Russian indigenous peoples’ movement. The case was announced to a wide international audience, and a large number of indigenous peoples' organisations and NGOs protested against the criminal prosecution of Ayvaseda. On 30 November, Ayvaseda's lawyer received a formal note from the local prosecutor that the case against him has been discontinued because his actions are not considered to have comprised any criminal offence.

In spite of this personal victory, the struggle between LUKoil and the reindeer herdsmen will continue. The people concerned need all available help to defend themselves against the unlawful, strong-arm tactics of powerful companies; many cases are never brought to court. The Ayvaseda story shows glints of hope for the future, encouraging the native Russian reindeer herders and their international supporters to persevere.