WWF staff attacked again while investigating illegal logging in Ukrainian Carpathians
Kyiv - Police are investigating the recent attacks on WWF staff and an accompanying German TV crew during an illegal logging investigation near the Uzhans'kyi National Nature Park in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains.
The team had been on a field check as part of the Forest Watch project, which trains volunteers to combat illegal logging. The 15 assailants are believed to be from the village of Stuzhytsia adjacent to a suspected illegal logging site.
"They threatened us, shouted, pulled our clothes, attempted to take away our phones and a car keys," says Dmytro Karabchuk, WWF-Ukraine Coordinator of the Forest Watch project. "We don’t know what caused the attack and who and for what purpose it was organized."
The attack occurred at the end of a WWF field visit to investigate more closely a confirmed illegal logging site and suspected illegal activities in an adjacent UNESCO World Heritage primeval forest.
"The management of Uzhans’kyi National Nature Park must step up efforts towards preventing illegal logging and ensuring safety of visitors. We also demand an immediate official investigation by the Ministry of Environmental Protection," states Roman Volosyanchuk, WWF-Ukraine Forest Coordinator.
WWF has been implementing the Forest Watch project in Ukraine for more than a year in cooperation with the US Forest Service and the Michael Succow Foundation. During this time one of the local activists has repeatedly sent videos and photos of suspected alleged illegal cuttings in Uzhans’kyi National Nature Park. On the activists’ request, on 16 April 2018, forest experts and representatives of law enforcement agencies conducted a preliminary inspection of one of the sites near Stuzhytsia village. It was confirmed that the cutting had signs of being illegal, with neither tree marking nor landmarks visible. Moreover, the official request to provide documents for logging was declined by national park staff, who claimed the site was not located within national park borders, and therefore was not in their jurisdiction.
This is not the first attack on the WWF forest team in the Ukrainian Carpathians. Last autumn about 30 people including employees of the Vyzhnytsia National Nature Park attempted to prevent Forest Watch volunteers from entering the park territory. And last summer in Berehomet forest, drunk appearing and armed forest guards and unknown people also behaved aggressively and threatened scientists during field investigations.