ICF helps three Russian scientists detained in Sri Lanka to return home

February 02, 2022

ICF helps three Russian scientists detained in Sri Lanka to return home

Three Russian zoologists, detained for two years in Sri Lanka on charges of violating Sri Lankan environmental laws, were able to return home thanks to active participation of the Foundation (ICF).

On 21 January, a Sri Lankan court sentenced three Russian scientists, Alexander Ignatenko and his associates Nikolay Kilafyan and Artem Ryabov, to a fine of Rs 2 885 000 each (37 200 USD) ‘for illegally gathering rare insects’. The court did not allow the accused to leave the country until the fine is paid. Failure to comply with the court’s decision by March 11 would result in imprisonment.

Thanks to close cooperation between the International Chodiev Foundation, the Central Office of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian Embassy in Colombo and, especially, its Consulate, the fine was paid as early as 31 January. After that, the zoologists, financially supported by the ICF, were able to return to Russia.

An entomologist Aleksandr Ignatenko and his companions Nikolay Kilafyan and Artem Ryabov were detained in Sri Lanka in February 2020 on charges of killing insects and small reptiles. Ignatenko and his colleagues claimed they were only collecting dead insects, which they photographed for research purposes and had no plans to take out of the country.  

Nevertheless, the scientists were placed in detention. In detention, Ignatenko’s health seriously deteriorated, and he had to be hospitalised several times. With the onset of the pandemic, all three were released from the detention centre, but not from the country, where they had been forced to stay all this time without work or medical care. As a result, everyone’s health was severely compromised. 

‘I am glad that we were able to help these people in such a difficult situation and that everything ended well,’ says Dr Patokh Chodiev, ICF’s founder. – But this story should serve as a cautionary tale for other scientists and nature lovers visiting other countries to research the local flora and fauna. Before embarking on such a journey, one should inquire about the laws of the country in question, to avoid finding oneself in a similar situation. As you know, ignorance of the law does not exempt you from responsibility for breaking it.’

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