On Saturday, April 21, on the outskirts of Uzhok National Park, about 15 aggressive people attacked representatives of the WWF Forest Team in Ukraine, WWF Germany, German journalists and experts from the "Forest Guard" project . The police have registered a criminal proceeding over the incident.
For more than a year, WWF has been implementing in Ukraine the "Forest Guard" project, which aims to build a network of volunteers to combat illegal logging in the Ukrainian Carpathians and offer legal ways for sustainable forestry development. The "Forest Guard" has repeatedly received from a local activist in Transcarpathia videos and photos of logging in Uzhok National Nature Park, which, in his opinion, was illegal. At the request of this person, on April 16, the project experts together with representatives of law enforcement agencies conducted a preliminary inspection of one of those sites near the village of Stuzhytsia of Velyky Berezny district.
The logging had all the signs of being illegal – there was no marking. Moreover, at the official request to submit documents for the logging, the national park refused to do it, arguing that this site is outside the national park, and therefore the park is not responsible for it. However, the survey of the "Transcarpathian Research and Design Land Management Institute", conducted at the request of the local police, proves the opposite. The detailed analysis of the logging is in the conclusions of our expert.
On April 21, the "Forest Guard" experts, along with WWF representatives in Ukraine, WWF Germany and journalists, came to the site again because of suspicion of logging in the UNESCO legacy forests, which begin immediately after the logging site.
"Approximately 30 minutes after arriving, we were attacked by about 15 aggressive people, many of them reeking with alcohol. They were threatening, shouting, pushing us, tried to take away our phones and my car keys screaming "what are you filming here?". We barely managed to call the police and ask for help. We do not know what provoked the attack, who and for what purpose organized it. A criminal case was opened. And we are ready to provide all the records we have subject to objective investigation," – Dmytro Karabchuk, WWF Forestry Expert in Ukraine and the "Forest Guard" Project Coordinator said.
"This incident indicates serious problems in the Uzhok National Park – both with the fight against illegal logging and with the safety of the park visitors, despite the fact that one of the main tasks of the park is the conservation of natural ecosystems, the development of eco-tourism and recreation. We will appeal to the heads of the police, prosecutor’s office, the NABU and the President and will demand an immediate official investigation at the Ministry of Environmental Protection," – Roman Volosyanchuk, the WWF Forestry Coordinator in Ukraine said.