By Nick Butler at Pushkin Hall in the Main Press Centre in Sochi

The IOC desire "clarification" after Yevgeny Vitishko was sentenced for three years yesterday ©Getty ImagesFebruary 13 - Clarification is being sought by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over whether the sentencing of an environmental activist was connected to his criticism of Sochi 2014. 

Yevgeny Vitishko, an activist with the group Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus (EWNC), received a three-year sentence in a penal colony yesterday, after being strongly vocal of supposed environmental damage caused during Olympic preparations.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams admitted further information was being sought over why the sentence was handed out - but he gave the impression that it was unconnected to Sochi 2014.

"In the case of Mr Vitishko, it won't surprise you to know we have followed and raised this case in the past for information to Sochi," he said today.

"Just to explain how we do things, where we think there may or may not be a case which could relate to the Games we raise it with Sochi and Sochi then ask the appropriate authorities to come back to us with an explanation, so we have followed this one before.

"Given the latest developments yesterday we have asked Sochi for further clarification, but what I would say is that I understand Mr Vitishko broke his parole on a matter not related to the Olympic Games.

"In other words I think he vandalised or painted the Governor of Krasnodar's house and was on a suspended sentence - my understanding is that that was broken.

"We would like to get some clarification on that and will come back to you on that, but for the time being that is what we will say on that one."

Yevgeny Vitishko has voiced various environmental concerns during the build-up to Sochi 2014 ©Getty ImagesYevgeny Vitishko has voiced environmental concerns during the build-up to Sochi 2014
©Getty Images

With the clarification letter only being sent this morning, Adams - along with Sochi 2014 spokesman Aleksandra Kosterina - speculated it would take around one or two days for a reply to be heard. 

Vitishko was convicted in 2012 of damaging a fence during a protest against the construction of what the group believes is a mansion for the region's Governor in a public forest.

He received a suspended sentence at the time but has now been given jailed after allegedly violating his parole.

But others have suggested that this was not the true reason for his sentencing - with Vitishko being one of the foremost figures criticising various environmental aspects of the Olympic preparations, including allegations over dumping of waste and damage to local areas. 

Human Rights Watch condemned Vitishko's sentence as punishment for his criticism of the Olympics, saying it was "retribution" for his activism.

EWNC member Vladimir Kimayev also said they they were expecting such an outcome and "didn't really have any illusions about it."

The decision to imprison him also comes just as the EWNC has released a report on what it calls "irreparable" environmental damage caused by preparations for Sochi 2014. 

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