Biography of Valentin Urusov
Valentin Urusov was born on the 4th of May 1974. Until 2008 he lived in the Udachniy, a town in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). In Udachniy he graduated from secondary school and then studied at Irkutsk State technical university, which he graduated from with a diploma as an ‘engineering-electrician’. Since 1990 he has worked in different departments of the diamond mining company of ‘Alrosa’ in Udachniy.
In June 2008 he was a founder member of the trade union in the industrial complex, named ‘Profsvoboda’ (‘Trade Union Freedom’). He became chairman of the ‘Profsvoboda’ union and led workers strikes with the requests of improving the working conditions in August 2008. In the same month Urusov took part in the work of the fifth Siberian Social Forum.
The activity of the ‘Profsvoboda’ provoked the displeasure of the directors of the ‘Alrosa’ company and the leaders and activists of the trade union came under a lot of pressure at the end of August 2008. On the 3 of September 2008 Urusov was arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs, and at the end of December he was convicted to six years in prison by the Mirninskiy district court.
On the 12 of May 2009 Urusov was released by a decision of the Panel of the Supreme Court of Yakutia, and the case was ordered to be reconsidered. However, on the 26 of June 2009 the Mirninskiy district court convicted Urusov again, this time softening the prison sentence by convicting him to 5 years in prison. He served his sentence in a penal colony in village of Verhniy Bestyah in Yakutia.
International and Russian trade unions, advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations were convinced: the case of Valentin Urusov was fabricated by his employer, the ‘Alrosa’ company. The Confederation of Labour of Russia became the initiator of a solidarity campaign for Urusov. Public campaigns were taking place in Russia and abroad to support Valentin. Tens of intellectuals, public figures and trade union officials from overseas spoke out for his release, including the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sharon Barrow.
The fairness of Valentin’s sentence was questioned in a report by the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which recommended Russia to review the case and release the trade union leader. The Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights accepted a petition for release of Valentin, which was initiated by a member of the Council, the president of the Confederation of Labour of Russia, Boris Kravchenko.
On the 6th of March 2013 the Hangalasskiy district court of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) adopted a decision on the release of Valentin Urusov. In the beginning of February Valentin had sent a request to the court to change the unexpired term to a milder penalty. As a result, the court placed a community service order on the trade union leader for 9 months and 11 days instead of custody in the colony. On the 15th of March, Valentin Urusov was released.
After being released, Valentin Urusov stated that he would continue his active trade union efforts. Since April 2013 Valentin Urusov has been a coordinator of organizing projects of trade unions in the budgetary sphere of the Confederation of Labour of Russia. Since September 2013 he has headed the Union Rights' Defence Centre.
Valentin Urusov became a winner of the prestigious Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights in 2013. The Svensson Prize marks the achievements of trade union activists, trade unions and their associations in the sphere of the struggle for labour rights. It was established by the biggest Norwegian trade unions and is presented every year. The awards ceremony for Valentin Urusov took place on the 19th of June 2013 in Oslo (Norway). The gift of money was given up by Valentin to create the Union Rights' Defence Centre.
“I am grateful to the international and Russian trade union movement for their struggle for my liberation and now for this honorary award”, said Valentin Urusov. “I would like to use this money to protect trade union activists, who are persecuted by their employers and corrupted officials. I would like this money to serve the whole Russian trade union movement”.
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