How does the “saffron” mafia of Ukraine work while the State Eco-Inspectorate is “reformed”?

According to environmentalists, snowdrops, which a quarter of a century ago could be admired even in the suburban Kyiv Goloseevsky forest, while “retreating” more than 100 kilometres from the capital. These flowers, as well as other early blooming plants, fell victim to greed for ignorance. Their mass collection is carried out by specialised beer mafiosniema by clans. Varbaric methods are used – primroses often burst out with bulbs, which means the complete destruction of the plant.

In the photo: Poachers pull primroses out of the ground with bulbs, destroying flower populations completely. Flowers were seized by the participants of the raid that social activists conducted in Kiev on March 8 this year

Other clan members are engaged in logistics – they deliver large batches of harvested to regional centres. Then the goods are formed in small batches and delivered to the “points.” The sale is carried out through a network of “siteers,” as which persons who look like socially vulnerable citizens (“grandmothers”) are consciously involved. 5-10-15 bouquets are usually placed at the point. The rest of the small wholesale batch (2-5 boxes or large bags) hides in the nearest entrance, utility room, trunk of a car parked nearby and rises “looking” in the right amount at the “point” depending on the liveliness of trade and demand.

In the photo: Primroses seized by the participants of the raid that social activists conducted in Kyiv on March 8

It was the territory of our autonomous republic that was the main region of primary blanks, in particular snowdrops, cyclimen Kuznetsov and Safron Geifel, to annex Crimea and its solution to the war against Ukraine. Now poachers harvest snowdrops mainly in the forests of Right-Bank Ukraine, and spring saffron and white flowers are harvested in the Carpathians.

The peak of poaching and trade in delicate wonders of nature falls on March 7-9. According to Volodymyr Boreyko, Director of the Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Centre (KECC), about 20 million primroscents are illegally sold in Ukraine during the season. This insane amount is due to the practical lack of combatting the illegal sale of early colours by the police and the eco-inspection. Community organisations are mostly also passive on this issue. Those who are actively involved in wildlife protection unfortunately have many points to make their efforts. On March 8, KECC (Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Center), together with the NGO Public Protection of Citizens, conducted a raid in Kyiv to suppress illegal trade in primroses. Seven people were detained, more than 3,500 snowdrops, spring white flowers and Gaifel saffron were seized. The total damage to nature was 176,000 UAH ($6300). Protocols have been drawn up. The main contingent of merchants came from Chernivtsi Oblast. “In total, according to our calculations, about half a million rare primroses were illegally sold in Kyiv on March 7-8 this year. A few years ago, the situation was much worse – up to five million copies of such flowers were sold in the capital. Thanks to the constant work of the public, patriotic officials of the Kyiv City State Administration and the already liquidated Department of the State Environmental Inspectorate. Kyiv’s sales volume managed to be “shaten” to 200-300 thousand ($7000-$10000). In a season. Unfortunately, in most other regional centres and major cities, trade is almost open, no one stops it,” Boreyko told us.

In the photo: Gafel saffron trade on Khreshchatyk in Kyiv. March 7, 2019 Neither the eco-inspection nor the police nearby are visible

In 2018, the trade was sluggish, but only nature should be thanked. As you remember, there were severe frosts late last February-early March, so the flowers were in no hurry from under the snow.

In the photo: A press conference on the preservation of rare primroses, held before the holiday on March 8, Vladimir Boreyko, left, and Alexei Korol

However, the capital’s eco-inspectors, who were still interested in this type of violation at the time, made up about 40 protocols. Unfortunately, the unit responsible for the order in Kyiv and the region – the State Environmental Inspectorate of the metropolitan District – did not get into the “old” inspectors again after the next reorganisation. And the “new” lusts to protect primroses have not yet shown. It is not easy to involve both the police in this work – and for their limited powers.

“Public environmental inspectors can do more than ordinary citizens. We, with the support of conscious people’s deputies, managed to restore the right of public environmental inspectors to draw up protocols under Article 88.1 (“Violation of the procedure for the acquisition, sale or distribution of wildlife objects”) of the Administrative Code of Ukraine (CA), – continues Boreyko. – Why did we have to restore? After all, in the early 2000s, public environmental inspectors had the same practical rights as state inspectors. But President Leonid Kuchma abolished all these rights in an instant because he was afraid of active citizens as fire. To date, we have achieved the restoration of only part of those rights, so there is still a lot of work in this direction. Another participant of the press conference on the preservation of primroses, deputy head of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Kyiv City State Administration Alexey Korol said that this season it was finally possible to force the Kyiv Metro to give social advertising that explains the harmfulness of the trade in primroses and urges citizens not to buy these plants. After all, in addition to harming nature, citizens can also harm themselves – Article 88.1 of the Admin Code provides for the liability not only of sellers, but also of buyers. Mr. Korol said that utility company Kievzelenstroy and its district units have established raid brigades that are already monitoring the safety of early blooming wild flowers.

“We really won’t find snowdrops anywhere anymore,” said the Korol. “But soon there will be sleep-grass and lily of the valley. Some types of sleep grass are listed in the Red Book, while others and lily of the valley are listed as rare plants in Kyiv, approved by the decision of the Kyiv City Council. Unfortunately, we don’t have the authority either, so we involve the police. In turn, police officers need our help in such cases, because they can’t always identify the flower.” As Vladimir Boreyko told Active Citizens, the most effective way to counteract the destruction and trade of primroses is to seize goods from poachers and calculate their losses. Fines under Articles 88.1 and 90 are relatively small – from 510 to 3655 UAH ($18-$130). While the losses for only one destroyed (torn, cut) red book plant is 49 hryvnias ($2). There are up to 50 such plants in the bouquet. That is, one bouquet is already about 2500 hryvnias ($90) of losses. And in the drawer (if you can find it) – hundreds of bouquets. But there’s a huge problem here: only state environmental inspectors can charge losses. About whose work you already know.

Although some employees of the State Department of the Inspectorate still see the problem and successfully fight it. Here’s what Alexander Poznyakov, Head of the Department of Environmental Supervision (Control) in the Cherkasy Region, writes on Facebook: “For a week, inspectors of the State Ecological Inspectorate of the Central District, together with police officers of the 5th Company of the Water Patrol of the Patrol Police of the Cherkasy Region, environmental B. Khmelnytsky and forest guards carried out measures to protect primroses on the territory of Kholodny Yar, where a folded snowdrop grows in the reserve “White”. Special attention is also paid to the protection of such a plant as cherry (bear bow), which grows on the territory of the forest near the Irda swamps.

For a week (before March 8 – Bus) The first violations were recorded on six violaters, administrative protocols were drawn up in accordance with Articles 70 and 90 of the Administrative Code. But the main work carried out is preventive work, during which we try to explain to people that plants need to be preserved for our descendants. We understand that there is a social layer of society with little financial security, so we try to keep people from violations not by fines, but by a conversation and a strong Ukrainian word. From 2008 to 2018, the volume “Plants” of the Red Book of Ukraine was doubled. What will be the publication that needs to be issued now (reissue under the Red Book Act should take place every ten years) is scary to even imagine.

Oleg Listopad

Translated by Ruslan Mahomedov

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