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Russia: Komi in Usinsk district declare "The end of our patience has come"

June 6 2014

Villagers adopting the resolution
Protests against oil companies are spreading north

On 5 June, a demonstration was held in Ust-Usa village in Usinsk district, Komi Republic, Russia, protesting the environmental destruction caused by LUKoil Komi and other oil companies. The protests, which started two months ago in Izhma district have now spread to Usinsk district, another region within Komi republic heavily affected by oil extraction. In 1994, it was the site of the world's worst ever terrestrial oil spill.

The indigenous Komi population lives mostly in the rural settlements, which are however, under the control of the Usinsk municipal district, dominated by the oil city of Usink. Therefore the indigenous population is politically disenfranchised and marginalized.

During their rally, they adopted an unusually strongly worded resolution, denouncing both the irresponsible conduct of the oil companies and the inaction and complicity by the authorities and vowing to uphold their demands and if necessary to boycott the next elections.

RESOLUTION

Of the protest rally by residents of the villages of city district "Usinsk"

05 June 2014, Ust-Usa village

We, the inhabitants of villages within Usinsk municipal district, have been experiencing the terrible consequences of oil extraction in our land for over four decades. Our rivers, lakes and swamps are being mercilessly polluted. Our ancestral land is being destroyed. We are deprived of the natural resources which are our main source of livelihood. Our constitutional rights to a healthy living environment, to clean air and clean water is being violated systematically . Oil companies, and first of all LUKOIL-Komi, the main operator of oil production within Komi Republic, are brushing off our letters and appeals with dismissals, promises and deceit. Neither have we never received an adequate and constructive response to our repeated enquiries to various authorities, from the municipal district administration to the country's leadership. They do not listen, they don't understand us.

Therefore we are gathered here at the rally in the ancient village of Ust-Usa, and we declare that we join the residents of Krasnobor, Shelyayur and other settlements of Izhma district in that we will no longer idly observe the barbaric destruction of our land and the pollution of our rivers. People have come to our ancestral lands, who are not interested in our future and future of our children - they are only interested in the "black gold" - our mineral resources. And for its sake they are prepared to turn it into a lifeless space; and they do so.

We want to preserve our land, our nature and our traditional culture for future generations. We therefore refuse to continue to watch silently and obediently the destruction of nature which is the basis of our life. LUKOIL and other oil companies must change from their current policy of committing and covering up violations of environmental legislation, they must change their economic policy of pumping more oil at any cost. We also demand that they change their conduct towards the local population - the company must base its conduct on the principle of partnership, provide the maximum number of jobs for local residents, significantly change the content of annual agreements with the municipality towards the interests of the villages and the rural population. We demand from the supervisory authorities to investigate objectively the construction of drilling well №2 at the Severo-Ipatskoye oilfield, which is being flooded during high water. The operation of this well will inevitably lead to irreversible contamination of two lakes and the small river Andryushkino, the water bodies most important for local residents, but it wil also affect the Pechora river. We demand an objective environmental review of the project and the dismantling this rig.

We demand from the administration of the Usinsk municipal district, to ensure that the fines and payments for damages received into the budget of the municipal district, are fully used for the rehabilitation of the contaminated environment and the local population affected by the oil spills, that is, the residents of the villages of the municipal district. We appeal to the leadership of Komi Republic and demand that our voice be heard. We were surprised that neither the acting head of the Republic, V.M. Gaizer, nor the deputies of the State Council of the Komi Republic acknowledge the catastrophic impact of oil extraction in our territory on the environment and the local inhabitants. We are surprised that no representative of the government of the Republic has responded to the rallies that villagers in Komi Republic are continuing for over two months, outraged at systematic violations of the legislation by "LUKOIL-Komi" and the company’s total neglect of the interests of the local population, the interests of the indigenous people of the Republic. Drilling rigs and oil wells are approaching closer and closer to our villages. We demand that public hearings be held are not in Usinsk city, but in the affected rural settlements.

The rally expresses its distrust towards the ecological monitoring of oil companies by the environmental services of the city Committee for nature protection, the city’s public Prosecutor and towards the Rosprirodnadzor [the federal nature monitoring agency] in Komi Republic.

The local authorities, the authorities of the Republic act like ostriches, sticking their head into the sand. The government conducts itself vis-a-vis the people like a conjurer on stage, saying one thing, showing another, as doing a third thing. Apart from the civic newspaper “ Veskyd syorni”, the internet news site “7x7” and the “Pechora Ecological Bulletin”, the regional press did not publish a single line about the rallies in Izhma district. This means that the government and the oil companies are united, and both are equally disinterested in the living conditions of the indigenous population, and their opinion. Corruption is what happens when capital and power splice. We declare that the main polluter and the violator of the environmental legislation in our territory, "LUKOIL-Komi", must go away, as long as it fails to abide by the Constitution of the Russian Federation and its laws and ignores the interests of the local population!

We also declare that we will not forget our demands until the September elections, and if nothing changes, we will boycott the elections, crossing out all candidates running for the position of Head of Komi Republic. Now is the time that our patience towards the lawlessness oil companies and power has come to an end!

Committee to Save Pechora (in Russian)