Freedom for Union Activist!

International Campaign in Support of Valentin Urusov

Dear friends!

In July 2008, workers of Russia’s largest diamond mining company, ALROSA, in Udachny in Sakha Republic (Yakutia), formed an independent trade union, which became a member of the independent trade union association SOTSPROF.

In two months, more than 1,000 workers joined the union. On 3 September 2008, the leader of the union, Valentin Urusov, was arrested on charges of possessing drugs. The drugs were planted on Mr Urusov to destroy the union and any worker resistance against the company. on 26 December 2008, Mr Urusov was sentenced to six years in a labour camp.

The city of Udachny has 15,000 inhabitants and is located in Russia’s Far North, 20 kilometres from the Polar Circle. The distance to the nearest major city is nearly 600 kilometres. The city is totally dependent on the diamond monopolist, ALROSA, and local authorities. ALROSA accounts for approximately 25% of the world’s rough diamond supply and 97% of Russia’s rough diamond production.

The workers at ALROSA began demanding better working conditions in spring 2008. For many years, the company’s drivers have had to do 70-130 hours overtime per month without proper overtime pay. Mine workers have to work with outdated equipment and without air heating. Health problems due to poisonous air are usual among miners.

Given that the workers’ demands found no response from the administration, ALROSA’s workers staged a hungerstike on 25-27 August 2008. After the administration announced that they will form a committee for negotiations, the hungerstrike was suspended. On 30 August 2008, more than 500 workers joined a union meeting in Udachny.

The negotiations committee should have completed its work by 5 September 2008, but on 3 September 2008, Mr Urusov was arrested with drug possession charges. Mr Urusov was allegedly found in possession of 70 grams of narcotics.

The arrest was conducted personally by the chief of the department of the Russian federal narcotics police (UFNSK) in Mirny, S. Rudov, who traveled 600 kilometres specifically for the purpose. The arrest was witnessed by the vice-director of the Aykhalsk mining plant’s department of economic safety, G. Pustovetov, and his driver.

Mr Urusov told his lawyer that he was practically kidnapped from the doorstep of his own home. He was driven 60 kilometres away from his home, where one of the anti-narcotics officers forced him to confess that the drugs were indeed his by shooting three warning shots next to his head, saying that his death would be classified as an escape attempt.

Right now, Valentin Urusov is waiting for the result of his appeal in a remand prison in Yakutsk, capital of Sakha Republic. Mr Urusov is suffering from kidney problems, but has been refused medical aid. His family is in need of financial help. Human rights organisations are now gathering funds to hire a lawyer for Mr Urusov.

For more information, write to the Institute of Collective Action [info@ikd.ru] with “Urusov” in the subject line.

International Campaign in Support of Valentin Urusov
Institute of Collective Action, 06.03.2009
http://ikd.ru/node/8951

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