Hanna Ustinova-Boychenko, Candidate of Law, Associate Professor
The Russia-controlled “administration” of the Crimea began to “pay much attention” to environmental issues in order to create a “beautiful picture”. In particular, in 2019, as part of the profile “national project’ in the “republic” they announced the start of five “regional projects”, one of which – “Forest Conservation”. As part of such a “design” in the Crimea it is planned to plant “as much as” 500 hectares of new forests. However, public figure Larysa Kurashkina is skeptical about the results of the work of the Russian “authorities” of Crimea in the field of ecology and noted that planting trees in modern Crimea does not guarantee their survival.
Indeed, planting new trees instead of ruthlessly felled can only make sense if they are regularly cared for. “High-ranking” collaborators can draw as many positive positive percentages of “implementation of plans and programs” in their reports, but Crimean residents continue to report mass barbaric tree felling in cities, reserves, sanctuaries, and even those under “special state control and protection”.
Another activist and architect, Olga Vechir, also observes a negative trend in the field of ecology and exposes the hypocrisy of “officials” who promise “green forests” in the Crimea. Before talking about their achievements in the field of ecology, they must return the Crimean Pine to the Red Book, demolish their ferroconcrete catacombs on the shores of Saki Lakes, stop the transfer of agricultural land and forests to “land for individual housing”, return to the Yalta Mountain-Forest Nature Reserve its status, to prohibit housing construction on the Cimmerian landscapes of Koktebel .
With the construction of the “Tavrida” highway started in May 2017, which connected Sevastopol and Kerch via Simferopol, environmentalists and the public were concerned about the irreversible consequences of such large-scale construction. In a relatively small area of the Crimea, the highway takes up a lot of space and, moreover, along the route the project does not provide for the planting of forest plantations . What consequences can be expected from such projects and actions of moderators of such ideas? A few years after such construction began, it became clear that it did not matter to the invaders’ “authorities” that they were leaving behind that Crimea, which in some ways was called “Ukrainian Switzerland”, and now it is gradually becoming the “surface of the moon”.
The Crimean local residents nicknamed the “famous highway” as the “way of death” in general, because the number of road accidents increased several times after the start of operation, but not only that was the cause. For the construction of the highway, minerals were extracted in such quantities that it caused irreparable damage to the peninsula. According to “official information”, the “Crimean Highway Service” felled 111 thousands trees and 116 thousands bushes for the construction of the highway. For a small peninsula, such felling is the beginning of an ecological catastrophe, and the destruction of plants listed in the Red Book is a defiant barbarism.
The greatest damage was caused to forests near Sevastopol, where more than twenty thousand trees were cut down. It is mainly Crimean pine, which in the spring of 2019 was “removed from the Red Book of Russia” on the initiative of the Russia-controlled “administration”. Trees were preserved only in Sevastopol itself, and the average age of destroyed trees was forty to eighty years. The builders of “Tavrida” did not spare even the forest belts, which were destroyed “under the root”, although of course it was possible not to do so, according to Crimean environmental activists.
According to them, the forest belts could and should have been left, as those trees protected from strong winds from the East. Now cars will be vulnerable to gusts of wind, and in winter ice will be added, because there is no forest strip that would protect the route from snow. Instead, the “construction managers” preferred to cut down and sell the sixty-year-old plantations to anyone for firewood.
Only invaders who understand the temporality of their stay on the peninsula can behave in this way. Why do they need to care about the future, to preserve the unique natural resources that are part of the lives of millions of people, to think rationally and to act on what “nature has lent us”? When you can “make money” from everything, make a profit, especially from the fact that they will never belong to you by right. It seems that most of the “officials of the Russian invaders’ powers” are guided by the principle: “came, saw, liked – denuded”. And the fact that they leave “devastation” and “desert” behind does not matter to them, because they are not going to live here.
Even some entrepreneurs, who at first rejoiced at the arrival of the Russian “authorities”, saw the damage to the ecology of the Crimea after the construction of the “Tavrida” highway started. “Plantings made of Crimean pine, sagebrush, walnut, acacia, apricot and other trees, which ranged in age from forty to eighty, were destroyed at the root. The total damage from the destruction of these forest belts in monetary terms alone is billions of rubles” – resents the former adherent of the pro-Russian movement Oleg Zubkov .
The biggest sadness is that even the chance to restore the destroyed forest belts has already been lost. Even the “Minister of Ecology of the Republic of Crimea” stated the impossibility of landscaping the “Tavrida” route, as “the project provides for the absence of any plantings”. In addition, after the completion of construction, it will be impossible to find vacant plots, as at a distance of 75 meters on both sides of the route stretches a dense economic zone, which lacks fertile soil .
The invaders’ “administration” “defiantly” justifies the felling of unique trees by “social needs”. In order to clear the area for the construction of the 8th stage of the
“Tavrida” highway, in the area between Sevastopol and Yalta, the invaders intend to cut down 7,760 trees listed in the “Red Book”. The “contract” for the felling of “Red Book” trees was published on the “Unified Information System” website in the field of procurement, according to which the falling of these flora, “listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation”, namely 116 tall juniper trees, 5011 pine Pallas, another 2633 Pitsunda pine. This is stated in paragraph 2 of Annex № 1 to the published “contract”, and another 962 trees listed in the “Red Book”, the invaders intended to “transplant” from the construction site of the route. The “contract” states that the deadlines for felling and transplanting trees is December 1, 2022 .
Deforestation is taking place throughout the Crimea, and in early 2021 it happened in Foros Park, which is considered one of the most beautiful places on the peninsula, where a serious scandal broke out. In the park, a company from Tatarstan began construction of a children’s health complex and workers destroyed century-old plants for this purpose. The Crimean residents tried to save the legendary park, but to no avail.
Moreover, the Crimean population should not hope for the cessation and restoration of greenery, as the “Head of Crimea”, after complaints from Crimean residents, reported that construction is carried out “in accordance with legal grounds”, so there are “no violations”  .
Also on Klementyev Mountain (Uzun-Syrt) near Koktebel, builders from Tatarstan “RusRemStroy” LLC began the “reconstruction” of the road leading to the local Koktebel Gliding Center and the Gliding Museum, on the basis of a “contract” with the “Crimean Roads Service”. As a result of such “professional” work, the builders uprooted trees and shrubs, as well as destroyed rare plants that historically grew in the “specially protected natural area” “Uzun-Sirt Aeronautical Complex, Klementieva Mountain”.
At the same time, Russian invaders’ “officials” loudly stated that there allegedly were no “Red Book related” among the trees and shrubs and that “local residents agreed with this project at public hearings”. After public statements by environmentalists, appeals from the population, the “authorities” promised “to research the problem”, “to point out the shortcomings of the contractor” and, as always, “to plant new trees instead of the destroyed ones” . However, if you count all the promises of the invaders, very soon the Crimea would become one of the greenest places on the planet. It is even difficult to imagine where to get so much land in the Crimea to plant all the promised hectares of trees.
Not only roads are causing deforestation on the Crimean peninsula, but also new gas pipelines, which “must” pass through rare, protected areas. Crimean activists “sounded the alarm” when they cut down rare trees on the border with the specially protected natural territory of the Yalta Mountain and Forest Reserve in connection with the laying of a gas pipeline of “Chernomornaftogaz”, being under the control of the Russian “administration”.
Another Russian-controlled enterprise, “Preserved Crimea” (“Zapovedny Krym”), immediately began to “protect” the interests of the Crimean population, explaining that construction was allegedly taking place “outside the reserve”, and the operation of the new “Yalta-Foros-Sevastopol” gas pipeline would solve the long-standing problem of hundreds of thousands of Crimean inhabitants. But it is unclear what the pointed problem’s key root is – extra forests or too clean air in the peninsula. The Russia-controlled “administration” always “rushes to the rescue” and immediately cuts down everything “that does not have to grow there”.
Earlier, in the same Yalta Mountain and Forest Reserve barbaric “management” was already observed, as a result of which invaders’ “prosecutor’s office” even “initiated the criminal case”. Then on the territory of Alupka section of the nature reserve with the use of heavy machinery was carried out “unauthorized violation of soil cover and soil dump”, construction of a strip foundation and damaged forest plantations of eastern hornbeam, fragrant oak, ash . The “prosecutor’s office” also stated that in the same reserve in the Gurzuf area with the use of heavy equipment “unauthorized laying of the road, which violated the ground cover”, as well as damaged forest plantations, including Crimean pine .
In Feodosia, the “prosecutor’s office” also initiated a “criminal case” for cutting down forest plantations in connection with construction work on the water supply and sewerage system in the Quarantine and Forstadt town’s districts. Of course, the invaders’ “authorities” do not want to admit their “mistakes”, but later the media and social networks reported that a section of young pine forest was cut down during the construction of these facilities . On the territory of the nature reserve in the Leninsky district of the Crimea the “illegal felling of greenery”, “Red Book” trees and shrubs was also found.
Illegal activities of “clearing” the area from trees were discovered in Maksimova Dacha Park. After all, a group of smooth elm trees, magaleb cherries and eastern hornbeam were “superfluous” in the park. Such actions “led to significant damage to the natural park, caused a change in the historically formed natural landscape, within which areas of rare species of animals and plants are formed, as well as cultural heritage sites of different historical periods, which are of archaeological and historical value” .
On the territory of “Belogorsky Forestry”, located near the village of Krasnoselivka, “illegal felling of forest plantations”, elm trees and hazelnuts were also carried out. Again, it was stated that “a criminal case has been initiated and is being investigated” . There are many such cases, but where is the actual result of counteraction, and whether to expect the influence of invaders’ “governing powers” on those illegal actions, when it itself does not spare the unique nature.
Sometimes the “occupation authorities” carry out punitive operations, pretending to be “concerned about illegal logging” and “controlling the Crimean forestries’ activities”. For example, in March 2021, several “employees” of the “Yalta town administration” were detained in, who, having received a bribe, “turned a blind eye” to the fact that the legal felling of rare trees , but all this is “a drop in the ocean”. because there are no really repressed “officials” for such actions. It is much easier to “prosecute” ordinary people on the peninsula for “illegal logging”.
In February 2019, “inspectors of the state unitary enterprise” “Sevastopol Forestry” were detained for extorting money from “forestry employees” who illegally collect and export deadwood from the territory of the “Baidarsky” state reserve”. For a long time, the “inspectors” did not draw up a “report on an administrative offense” and thus allowed its employees to “manage” the territory of the “reserve”. In early 2021, the “case” was transferred to the “court” .
It should be added that all these “high-profile criminal cases” have so far ended in only two practical consequences – the self-publicity of the Russia-controlled “prosecutor’s office” and the self-enrichment of its individual “prosecutors”.
The main task of forestry has always been the prevention of offenses in the field of forest protection, the use of forest resources and most importantly – the preservation of the forest fund. Instead, at the end of 2020, the construction of cottages for tourists began in the village of Sokoline, Bakhchisaray district, near the Kokkozka River, on the territory of the “forestry”.
The embarrassed locals were very surprised to find out who the “newbie” was when they found out exactly where the permits began. After all, the initiator of the development was the “forestry” itself, which “leased” 50 acres for 49 years of forest land “for recreational activities”. All this “forestry” did in “agreement” with the “Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Crimea” .
What will happen next, how much time is left for the unique forest, protective and park plantings of Crimea? It is unlikely that the invaders’ “governing powers” will understand that “ambitious projects” will not be able to replace the clean air that humanity so desperately needs. It is possible that such activities are part of a plan to militarize the peninsula, and therefore the Russian invaders do not need the rare trees and plant landscapes, which for centuries were the “business card” of the Crimea.