Conflict & Justice

A Soviet dissident father waits, as his Greenpeace activist son sits in a Russian jail

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Credit: Courtesy of Greenpeace

Dima Litvinov stands in a cage as he faces charges of hooliganism related to his work with Greenpeace in the Russian Arctic.

As a father, Pavel Litvinov says it's difficult to watch helplessly as his son sits in a Russian jail without any means of direct communication.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

What he has heard, though, worries him.

"He's still in prison in Murmansk, the prison is cold, and basically he's incommunicado. Occasionally, he sees his lawyer; twice he spoke to his wife. But what worries me is that he's 51 years old, so he's twice my age when I was in a Russian prison and this is a late age to start a prison career," Litvinov said. "He's still pretty strong, so I hope that being morally strong he will keep his health, but I am worried."

Dima Litvinov was arrested in September and jailed in Murmansk on charges of hooliganism. Litvinov was a member of the crew of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, which confronted a Russian oil drilling rig in the Arctic Ocean and provoked the ire of Russian authorities. Initially, the group faced piracy charges, but the charges have since been reduced to the less serious hooliganism charge.

Still, Dima Litvinov could do time. And he wouldn't be the first member of his family to have a run-in with the Russian prison system.

Litvinov says Dima Litvinov's grandfather spent eight years in Soviet prison camps during the Stalin era for protesting the looting and raping of the German population by Soviet soldiers during World War II. Pavel Litvinov, too, was arrested — in 1968, under Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, for participating in a demonstration against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Pavel Litvikov wonders, isn't it time to break the cycle?

"The third generation has been arrested and Dima is now under threat to go to a labor camp, like his grandfather and me went," he said. "Russia has to change. There was hope after perestroika, after Grobachev, that things would change. Dima's arrest signals that the change is not deep and instead Russia is going again toward an authoritarian state. It's becoming worse and worse and I just want to use Dima's example to show that Russia should stop and join the civilized world."

Photos of Dima Litvinov handcuffed and standing in a steel cage have been published worldwide.

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