Sochi Winter Olympics: Environmental activist jailed

Environmental Watch ecology group activist Yevgeny Vitishko, standing in front of the new road between Adler and Krasnaya Polyana in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in December 2013. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Yevgeny Vitishko was arrested on another charge before he could go to Sochi to present an environmental report

An activist critical of the environmental impact of the Winter Olympics has been jailed for three years.

Yevgeny Vitishko was originally given a suspended sentence two years ago for spray-painting a fence.

Vitishko said the fence was built illegally around a local governor's property in a protected forest.

A court in the regional capital of Krasnodar has converted the sentence into a prison term.

As a condition for his suspended sentence, Mr Vitishko had to check in regularly with penitentiary officials and inform them of his travel plans.

Officials last year asked the court to convert his sentence into a prison term, for allegedly failing to inform them of a trip out of town.

"We expected it and so did Zhenya [Vitishko],'' his lawyer Alexander Popkov told the Associated Press on Wednesday, adding that his client was being "persecuted for his activities.''

Mr Vitishko was planning to go to Sochi last week to present an environmental report, but was arrested in his hometown of Tuapse, 130 kilometres (80 miles) to the northwest, after formally filing for permission to travel to the Olympic city.

He was then found guilty on a separate charge of hooliganism for swearing at a bus stop.

Mr Vitishko is a member of Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, a group campaigning to preserve the region's unique ecology.

He was originally convicted over the spray-painting incident alongside another activist, Suren Gazaryan, who was later threatened with additional charges before fleeing the country. He received political asylum in Estonia last year.

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