As the Winter Olympics got under way in Sochi, Lewes human rights campaigners met at the Town Hall to hear concerns about the pressures facing those whose political actions lead them to cross paths with the Russian authorities.
Lewes Amnesty International Group organised a talk entitled ‘Putin and Pussy Riot: Politics in the New Russia’, which heard from speaker Patricia Cockrell MBE.
Her humanitarian work led her to travel and campaign for many years in Russia, Chechnya and the former Soviet Union.
The public meeting took place as Amnesty International called on the International Olympic Committee to take action on the issue of alleged human rights violations in the context of the Sochi Games.
Lewes Amnesty Group Chair Sara Birch said ahead of the meeting: “Amnesty International is concerned that environmental campaigners in particular have faced increased harassment by Russian officials for exposing the destruction of areas of outstanding natural beauty to make room for the Olympic sites.
“In one case, Yevgeniy Vitishko, was detained on February 3 for allegedly swearing at a bus stop. He was denied access to his solicitor and subsequently detained for ‘petty hooliganism’.
“His supporters believe this was an attempt to ‘neutralise’ him prior to the Olympic Flame Rally on February 4, and Amnesty International currently regards him as a prisoner of conscience. Conditions where he is being detained are said to be atrocious.
“We will be pursuing letter writing actions to put pressure on the Russian authorities to release Yevgeniy and others like him.”