Three Russian scientists have been fined approximately $14,419 each for the illegal collection of rare insects in Sri Lanka, Ivan Melnikov, vice president of the Russian office of the International Committee for Human Rights said.
“Alexander Ignatenko and his colleagues Nikolay Kilafyan and Artyom Ryabov were sentenced to [$14,419] fine each. Due to strong pressure from the Sri Lankan environmental police and poor health condition, all three had to plead guilty,” Melnikov said, according to the TASS Russian News Agency.
According to Melnikov, the three Russians will be imprisoned, if they fail to pay off the fine before March 21, 2022.
He also called media reports that the Russians received a suspended sentence false, adding that they were only sentenced to a fine.
He noted that the Sri Lankan police said that their case could have lasted for years, should they have refused to admit guilt, and there were reason to believe they were telling the truth: in one year, only two witnesses out of 13 were questioned.
“Our citizens do not have the money to pay the fine. In this regard, we have initiated a fundraiser in support of the Russian citizens,” the activist said.
The three scientists claim they only gathered dead insects, photographed them and had no intention to transport them outside Sri Lanka; they also did it outside the natural reserve, as required by the local law. All three Russians have been released from detention but could be arrested again, Melnikov said. (Colombo Gazette)