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Valentin Urusov Released from Prison!

www.ituc-csi.org

Russian Trade Union leader Valentin Urusov Released from Prison

15 March 2013. The ITUC has welcomed the release of Russian trade union leader Valentin Urusov from prison today. In early 2008 Urusov, a miner and trade union leader, was detained by the authorities, alleging narcotics possession. However, his arrest coincided suspiciously with preparations for a protest rally by workers at the state-owned Alrosa diamond mining company – a rally which Urusov helped organise. He was sentenced to six years in a penal colony.

Urusov’s case was reported in a complaint to the ILO by the Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), supported by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, the ITUC, and global union federations IUF and IndustriAll. In a November 2012 report, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association explicitly requested his release. Earlier this month a district court decided to replace the rest of his prison term by an ongoing sequestration of 15% of his salary.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “We welcome the release of Valentin Urusov, whom the international trade union movement has strongly supported during his time in prison. The release was result of the KTR campaign, supported by the combined efforts of the national and international trade union movement and the work of the ILO. It is a positive step that Russia has responded by implementing the ILO’s recommendations. We should not forget however the circumstances of his imprisonment, and the ITUC will continue supporting the KTR in demanding reconsideration of his case. All the charges against him must be withdrawn”.

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seansrussiablog.org

Good news from Russia is a rarity. But today is one of the those rare days. After four and a half years in prison on fabricated charges, the labor activist Valentin Urusov has been released. His release comes ten days after a Khangalssk district court decision. According to Andrei Demidov, the deputy director of Collective Action, Urusov plans to continue his work as a labor and human rights organizer.

Congratulations to Urusov, his family, and all those who tirelessly agitated for his freedom!

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Global Unions Urge Release of Valentin Urusov, Imprisoned Russian Trade Unionist

www.solidaritycenter.org

Global Unions Urge Release of Imprisoned Russian Trade Unionist

February 6, 2012—Trade unionist Valentin Urusov is proof that in Russia, it’s still possible to be imprisoned in the 21st century equivalent of the gulag for standing up for worker rights on the job. An electrical fitter at an ore-processing mill owned by the diamond mining company Alrosa, Urusov has spent more than four years of a six-year term in a penal colony in Yakutia in far northern Russia.

Described by friends as an intelligent and persuasive leader, Urusov in June 2008 formed the Profsvoboda trade union, affiliated with the Russian Metalworkers Trade Union. Profsvoboda sought to represent workers at the Udachny Pipe Diamond Mine, where workers toil in brutal cold in an open diamond pit just outside the Arctic circle.

Days after the union was founded, workers in one of the mine’s vehicle depots, dissatisfied with low pay and working conditions, announced a hunger strike. Alrosa refused to meet with them and instead unleashed a crackdown against trade union activists. When workers responded by preparing for a large-scale protest rally, Urusov was detained on suspicion of narcotics possession. The company’s deputy director for economic security was “coincidentally” present when the drugs were allegedly found on Urusov, enabling the deputy director to serve as an official witness, which is required under Russian law during police searches.

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Valentin Urusov was detained prior to the start of a rally he was organizing. Photo: CSID

According to the Russian Confederation of Labor (KTR), which for years has engaged the international labor community in pressing for Urusov’s release, Urusov told his lawyer that the men who arrested him threatened to kill him if he refused to sign a document stating he possessed the drugs. They took him to the woods, and shots were fired near his head. He was beaten with batons and told he should get ready to die. Further, they demanded that Urusov confess that his union deputy had given the packet to him, but Urusov refused to give false testimony against his co-worker. After Urusov’s conviction, a higher court set aside the verdict, finding that there were serious procedural errors in the handling of his case and referred the case back for retrial. But in a retrial, the lower court did not change the verdict. In 2011, Urusov applied for parole and was denied. Urusov, who suffers from chronic kidney disease, remains in prison.

With Urusov behind bars, the KTR says Alrosa continued its campaign to destroy the union. Management representatives threatened union supporters and even those who had applied to join the union. By March 2009, the company fired the last 13 union activists. They appealed their dismissal in court, but lost. Those dismissed failed to find jobs because all enterprises in the city are linked to the Alrosa company.

The KTR filed Urusov’s case with the International Labor Organization (ILO) which in November issued a report requesting the Russian government indicate whether the allegation of anti-union persecution had been investigated. If not, the ILO recommended the government conduct an independent investigation. Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in January sent an appeal signed by journalists, human rights activists and other public figures to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging the government follow the ILO recommendations. A recent Human Rights Watch report harshly criticized Russia’s use of laws to restrict civil society.

Russian trade union activists face many types of workplace harassment, sackings and beatings by company thugs. But this is the first time in recent years, trade union activity has been “punished” with a lengthy jail sentence.

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