Siberian shaman faces prison time after trying to defend sacred lake from oil industry
A criminal investigation has been launched in Khanty-Mansiysk (western Siberia) against Sergei Kechimov, suspected of threatening to kill employees of Russian oil and gas company Surgutneftegas. Kechimov is a respected elder and shaman of the indigenous Khanty group. He is the only resident of the area directly surrounding Lake Imlor, considered to be a sacred lake by local indigenous peoples.
According to Kechimov, in the fall of 2014, a dog belonging to Surgutneftegaz employees attacked and killed one of his deer. Kechimov shot and killed the dog. After the incident, police officers and several oil company workers came to him and asked him to sign a piece of paper. As he later found out, the document was actually a confession stating that Kechimov had threatened to kill the oil company workers.
Kechimov’s lawyer maintains that his client hardly speaks any Russian. He has lived on the banks of Lake Imlor his entire life, and Greenpeace representatives claim that he was a “nuisance to the oil workers” because he constantly complained about pollution to the authorities.
The court hearings will begin on August 17.
“Almost all the residents have gone away, and workers started bringing in dogs, although they are not allowed to. The cleared trees to make walkways, even though all the trees here are sacred. And sometimes there are spills. They also catch fish, sometimes using nets. Trash is everywhere,” says [Kechimov].
In 2013, 1 million tons of oil were discovered on the bottom of Lake Imlor. According to Kommersant, Surgutneftegas’s initiatives to access the deposits were met with local resistance, as the local population considers this lake to be sacred.