A few days ago, a grenade was thrown into a yard of a local environmentalist in Dnipropetrovsk region, southeastern Ukraine; a car and a roof of his apartment were damaged by an explosion. A man fought against the illegal logging, according to Tetiana Lampika, the chairman of the EcoPatrul (Eco-Guard) organization, the employee of which was subject to the attack. The police are conducting a pre-trial investigation into the explosion; all the versions, including professional activities, are being studied. This is not the first case of an attack against an ecoactivist in Dnipropetrovsk region: social activists are often the targets of intimidation and even physical violence in Ukraine.
December 11, an explosion took place at a private house in Sinelnikove, a small city in Dnipropetrovsk region, where a member of the EcoPatrul social group resides with family and children. At that time, the activist was in the house, so, fortunately, no one was hurt. The press service of the Department of State Drug Control in the Dnipropetrovsk region confirmed the incident, adding that the criminal proceedings under article 4 of Article 296 of the Criminal Code (“hooliganism”) was opened. The sanction of the article provides for imprisonment from 3 to 7 years. All the circumstances of the incident are being investigated, the police are working to identify the person or persons who might be involved in the offense. All versions are being worked out, including professional activities. The name of the victim is not disclosed for the security reasons.
Lampika draws parallels between the attack on her colleague and his professional activities. In particular with his revelations connected with the illegal logging of oak plantations in Sinelnikove. “By the time EcoPatrul began to deal with this issue, 1.5 hectares of oak plantations had already been deforested. We began to resist [this scheme], but there was a clear, well-established business,” the EcoPatrul public organization’s chairman noted. The environmental organization handed over the following facts to the police. On November 3, unidentified persons were detained near Parne village; they sawed down the oaks (76 trees were milled. In accordance with the criminal proceedings instituted, two chainsaws and a car were seized. On the same day, two chainsaws of black lumberjacks were arrested in Vyshnevetske village. EcoPatrul activists contributed to the arrests on November 21 and 30, as a result, several other vehicles and chainsaws were arrested.
Last year alone, as a result of EcoPatrul’s activities, 20 criminal cases were initiated in connection with the environmental legislation violations. In particular, they have initiated an inspection of the prosecutor's office in the Dnipropetrovsk region forestry. Lampika commented on the situation: “Our activity is communication between the responsible authorities, for example, between the State Service for Emergencies, the police, the environmental inspectorate."
EcoPatrul launched a mobile station to segregate household waste in Dnipro city. About 2 thousand families are already participating in the program. Members of the organization conduct lessons for students in Kamianske. They donated special bins for segregation of waste, which they serve themselves. In January, this a special awareness campaign in the schools of Dnipro city to be launched. The organization is funded by the charitable donations and from local budgets.
The members of the EcoPatrul were repeatedly threatened earlier, Lampika assures. In particular, the car one of the members was burned in Pavlohrad. There were verbal threats on Facebook, even death threats. "A year ago, threats, in connection with the activities of our organization, even came to my children and their classmates. We were forced to hold a press conference on this matter."
We note that cases of intimidation of social activists in Ukraine are a common thing. As Mayor of Hlukhiv, Michel Tereshchenko, his wife Olena Tereshchenko was actively fighting against illegal developers in Kyiv, and someone burned her car. In Olevsk (Zhytomyr region), the deputies of the city council and activist Oleksandr Nikolaichuk were attacked with the armature, because they fought against illegal mass mining of amber and helped journalists to make a story about the "amber affairs." And there are thousands of such cases in the country. As a rule, the attackers are not found.
The case in Sinelnikove will not stop the activists of the EcoPatrul, its chair assured. “In 2019, we plan to turn our organization into an all-Ukrainian one and expand our activities to all of Ukraine. We have already held constituent assemblies in Lviv and Odesa regions,” she said, noting that thousands of people support the organization. The members of the EcoPatrule are engaged in physical training and are certified by the police.