Business and Human Rights Resource Centre
2-8 Scrutton Street
24 May 2017
Re: Articles Published on Business and Human Rights Website
To whom it may concern,
We write in response to accusations published on your website regarding Mr Sergey Savelievich Nikiforov, former head of the Evenki village, Ivanovskoye (Amur region), in particular the accusation that he was sentenced to 4 years in prison in connection with a protest movement he led against Petropavlovsk PLC and its developments. Petropavlovsk has no connection with the criminal prosecution of Mr Nikiforov; the aforementioned accusations are groundless and do not reflect the truth.
Petropavlovsk established its presence in the north-east of the Seledzhinsky district in 2010 and developed a strong relationship with the village administration, as represented by Mr Nikiforov. This has been acknowledged on multiple occasions by Mr Nikiforov, both in his televised interviews and those published in local media (eg. http://www.ampravda.ru/2012/03/29/034006.html).
In 2011, when Mr Nikiforov was head of the local administration, Petropavlovsk was preparing for operations to commence at the Albyn mine in the Seledzhinsky district. As part of these preparations, the Company conducted a public hearing in the Ivanovskoye village to inform local citizens of its intent. This was organised despite no such legal requirement under Russian law in order to develop and preserve a relationship with the village. 93 of its citizens were among the registered participants, out of a population of just under 400, 88 of which expressed support for the project. This is recorded both in the Journal for Company’s Public Hearings and the Final Protocol of the meeting.
Petropavlovsk has made a substantial contribution financially and through other means (such as advisory), to social and economic infrastructure both locally and in the region more broadly. The combined efforts of the Company and Mr Nikiforov have improved quality of life in the village significantly. These efforts have included helping to celebrate national holidays, repairing equipment and refurbishing social and cultural facilities (school, stadium etc), as well as helping to bring mobile phone services and internet to the area. Petropavlovsk has also helped the indigenous Evenki community (by local native name Selitkan and others) to maintain their traditional culture in reindeer herding, hunting etc.
The Company keeps a record of the numerous donation agreements, as signed by the representative of the recipient, Mr Nikiforov, in which the projects, fields of cooperation and scope are clearly stated. The relationship between the Company and the village administration, represented by Mr Sergey Nikiforov, was indeed mutually beneficial, allowing Petropavlovsk to carry out its mine development whilst fostering socio-economic development in Ivanovskoye.
In 2013 however, following a court decision, Mr Nikiforov was dismissed from his office for a period of investigation and judicial proceedings, after being charged with taking a bribe from a company “DalTeploEnergo”. This company is not at all affiliated with the Petropavlovsk Group of Companies. In September 2015 Mr Nikiforov was convicted, and in November 2015 several evenks from the Ivanovskoye village protested in Blagoveshensk and Ivanovskoye, requesting that he be freed.
As far as we can tell from monitoring media, the first allegations of Petropavlovsk’s involvement in the criminal prosecution against Mr Sergey Nikiforov appeared in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. It published an article in December 2015, the title of which can be translated as follows: “how they do away with the head of a village who is protecting it against a mining company in the Amur region”. Petropavlovsk has used its right to respond as provided by Russian legislation on mass media, and the Company’s response describing its positive cooperation with Sergey Nikiforov was published in the newspaper.
During the time Mr Nikiforov was head of the Ivanovskoye village, Petropavlovsk did not have any objections to him holding this position. Mr Nikiforov’s imprisonment presented no advantage to the Company, it was not involved in the criminal prosecution nor did it initiate proceedings.
Dr Alfiya Samokhvalova