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Russia Prevented Indigenous Leaders From Going to World Conference

Russian officials prevented two indigenous leaders from attending the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples this September.
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Russian officials prevented two indigenous leaders from attending the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples this September, according to the leaders and other sources; and charges against one of the leaders was later dropped.

Rodion Sulyandziga, a leader of the Udege people of Eastern Siberia, is the Director for the Center for the support of the Indigenous Peoples of the North and member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Coordinating Group for the World Conference. Before being detained on September 18, he had been heading to the Conference as a representative of the Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Transcaucasia indigenous region.

Sulyandziga asserted that Russian officers asked for his passport, which he then gave to them, and when it was returned there was a page missing. Based on the missing page he was denied permission to board the plane.

In his statement posted on social media, the leader related what happened next.

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“Yesterday, following the same script, Anna Naikanchina was stopped at Sheremetyevo [airport] and not allowed to leave the country, the second representative of Russian Indigenous Peoples, listed in the official program as a featured speaker on rights of Indigenous Peoples at the national and local level.”

“What is this?” Sulyandziga continued, “What are the authorities afraid of? This is a policy of intimidation and repression carried out against a backdrop of mass psychosis... We must not remain sitting in the foxhole, and it would make no sense to do so... Anna and I will defend our constitutional rights by all available legal and informational means.”

While neither Sulyandziga nor his colleague was able to travel to the Conference, the “administrative offense” charge was dropped. The Udege leader noted that he and other indigenous leaders had been harassed before but that he was grateful to international and local supporters who helped publicize the incident at the Russian airport.