Sochi Anti-Corruption Activist Nearly Beaten to Death

Logo for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Source: Sochi2014.ruA prominent local human rights advocate who has worked to expose government corruption in the village of Lazarevskoe near the Black Sea city of Sochi has been nearly beaten to death by two unknown men, in the latest of a string of such attacks in the area.

On Monday night, the victim, Mikhail Vinyukov, explained the situation to a correspondent with the news portal. Vinyukov says he was walking to the store around 9 pm that night when an adult man came up and began whacking him with an metal bar for no ostensible reason. Vinyukov initially managed to fight back, but another man with a metal bar then approached him from behind and began hitting him over the head. The rights advocate eventually managed to escape and ran to a hotel and office complex, where an ambulance was called for him.

Vinyukov was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with “a concussion, a closed head injury, contusions and lacerations of the scalp,” as well as puncture wounds near his shoulder and bruises and lacerations on both legs, according to trauma nurse Mira Kheyshkho. The rights advocate was told he would have to remain hospitalized for an extended period of time.

Additionally, Vinyukov’s mother said that she was called after the attack by an unknown man who asked where her son was.

The activist said he believes that the attack was “organized by a criminal gang” that is working “against those who hinder corruption within government agencies” in the area.

Mikhail Vinyukov is the head of the local Public Service for the Defense of the Rights and Interests of Citizens. About two months ago, he was threatened with murder after releasing an audio recording of a conversation between the city’s resort service and tourism department head, Vladimir Shiroky, and the director of the Lazarevsky Otdykh tourism company, Gavina Panaetova. The recording resulted in Shiroky’s arrest on August 26 for taking bribes from Panaetova.

The recording itself was later posted on the website of well-known whistleblower cop Aleksei Dymovsky. It was recorded by accident when a local resident, sitting in a park near the Lazarevsky Otdykh building, overheard the conversation while making a recording of nature sounds. Dymovsky said the attack on Vinyukov was no doubt “an ordered crime. People don’t just attack people with iron bars. The task was either to kill him or cripple him.”

A host of social activists expressed certainty that the attack on Vinyukov was connected with his efforts to fight corruption, which has risen as a result of preparations for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Valery Suchkov, founder of the Public Assembly of Sochi, said that Vinyukov’s attack was extremely similar to other recent attacks on anti-corruption public figures. “The cases known to the whole public of reprisals against Communist Party Deputy Lyudmila Shestak, Mestnaya newspaper Editor-in-Chief Arkady Landerov, and now the case of human rights advocate Mikhail Vinyukov, speak to the fact that these attacks were ordered,” he said. “Moreover, all the crimes have the same signature. The public must demand that both the perpetrator and the person who ordered the attack be found, and the situation be put under public control.”