Director General of Forests of Ukraine headed illegal logging and corruption in the industry – investigation blackboxosint.com

Director General of Forests of Ukraine headed illegal logging and corruption in the industry – investigation

Anna the Great

According to the investigators, the situation in the forest industry only worsens every year

Yuriy Bolokhovets, former head of the State Forestry Agency and now CEO of the state enterprise "Forests of Ukraine", which now controls all forestry enterprises in the country, "covers" corrupt officials on the ground and "covers" illegal deforestation. He is lobbying the Cabinet of Ministers to abolish environmental restrictions on sanitary deforestation, and has also squatted on a land plot in Chernihiv Oblast, where he built an undeclared house.

This is stated in an investigation published by the BlackBox OSINT project on its website.

First of all, the OSINT detectives drew attention to the fact that the head of the State Forestry Agency, Yuriy Bolokhovets, who was dismissed in April 2023 by MPs for bringing 98% of the forestry industry into the shadows, was returned to manage the forestry industry as director of the State Enterprise "Forests of Ukraine" 2 weeks later by the Minister of Ecology Ruslan Strelets. Investigators explain Bolokhovets's rapid career rise from the position of director of the Nizhyn Forestry State Enterprise, where he had been for 8 years, to almost immediately becoming deputy head of the State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine, and his appointment as the country's chief forester, as being the result of the minister's "protection".

Photo: ruslan.strelets/facebook.com

BlackBox OSINT makes an interesting observation: Yuriy Bolokhovets joined the State Forestry Agency in July 2020 — exactly when Ruslan Strilets, who today heads the Ministry of Environment, was appointed deputy minister of ecology. It was Ruslan Strilets who initiated the creation of "Forests of Ukraine", where he appointed Yury Bolokhivets, who was criticized by people's deputies, as its head.

And now let's talk in more detail about the corruption abuses of which the BlackBox OSINT investigators accused this CEO of the state-owned enterprise.

1. Illegal felling of forests by forestry workers. 

"Selling the forest at 2 times lower prices is only the tip of the iceberg of the corrupt empire of the main forester of Ukraine," osint detectives claim.

They cite data from the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), according to which in 2023, forestry workers in Kyiv region alone illegally cut down 2500 trees for sale under the guise of "sanitary" deforestation, causing losses to the state of UAH 17 million. A similar scheme was used to cut down 7,000 trees on an area of 14 hectares in Vinnytsia region, which resulted in losses of UAH 53 million. EcoPolitic also regularly reports on similar violations by the State Bureau of Investigation worth tens of millions of hryvnias.

According to ecologist and director of the Kyiv Ecological and Cultural Center Volodymyr Boreiko, over the past 15 years, forests in Ukraine have been destroyed by logging on an area of 800,000 hectares, which is 7.2% of the total forest area and is approximately equal to the territory of Chernivtsi region. And this process is only accelerating: in May-July 2022, 169% of the forest area was cut down in Odesa region, 126% in Chernivtsi region, and 117% in Vinnytsia region compared to the same period in 2021. That is, forestry enterprises are constantly increasing timber harvesting from year to year.

"Forest farms are put in a catastrophic situation, they are taxed, they have to transfer about 30% of their revenue to the State Enterprise "Forests of Ukraine". Therefore, now they are either flaking, or they have to massively and illegally cut down the forest in order to somehow survive," — noted ecologist.

2. Lobbying the Cabinet of Ministers for the resolution "Some issues of felling in the forests of Ukraine" developed by him.

It almost completely cancels environmental restrictions on sanitary logging and will allow continuous sanitary logging in recreation areas of national parks, in the forests of the Carpathians, where they were previously prohibited, as well as cutting down trees important for biodiversity.

Ecologist Volodymyr Boreyko claims that Bolokhovets is putting pressure on the Ministry of Environment to agree to his draft Cabinet resolution on increasing tree felling. To do this, he began to block the creation of new protected areas.

"Why increase the cutting of forests in such a forestless Ukraine, if even before the war in Ukraine, somewhere around 30% of the wood was cut without any documents. Accordingly, no taxes for harvesting and selling such wood went to the budgets. The process of selling "white" wood remains completely corrupt (low prices, kickbacks, etc.), which is also not very profitable for the state. Isn't it more logical to pay maximum attention to transparency in the conditions of war? To make "white" the wood that is already being cut, and not to focus only on a serious increase in the volume of felling?", Boreyko says.

3. "Crushing" large-scale corruption on the ground.

According to the investigators, despite the fact that in the "reformed" "Forests of Ukraine" the salaries of managers in some places exceed the salary of the president of the country by 12 times, the SBI periodically suspects and exposes them for illegal enrichment in huge amounts.

BlackBox OSINT cites the example of Vitaly Suhovych, now ex-deputy director of the Polissky Forestry Office of State Enterprise "Lisa Ukrainy", who was appointed to this position by Bolokhovets. During the searches, Sukhevich was found and seized:

  • more than $4 million in cash;
  • expensive watches;
  • gold coins and bars;
  • 3 expensive foreign cars: Audi Q8, Mercedes-Benz GLE 350e, BMW X5;
  • 4 plots of land in Rivne, on which he built cottages.

This property, according to investigators, was undeclared.

They also claim that despite high salaries, the officials of "Forests of Ukraine" continue to launder and embezzle funds:

"We see that Yury Bolokhovets at the State Enterprise "Lisa Ukrainy" recruited a team exclusively from people who had previously been involved in corruption in Ukrainian forest farms," ​​they state.

4. Illegal seizure of land plots and illegal construction by Bolokhivets and his subordinates.

BlackBox OSINT investigators say that the SBI is currently engaged in criminal proceedings opened on November 14, 2023, on the fact of abuse of power by the General Director of the State Enterprise "Lisa Ukrainy" Yury Bolokhivts and members of his family, who, according to the investigation, arbitrarily occupied a plot of land and built on it house. This plot is in permanent use of the State Enterprise "Forests of Ukraine", which is headed by Yuriy Bolokhovets.

"In general, building recreation centers in the forest on captured plots is a trend among Ukrainian foresters," say osint detectives.

They recorded the following facts regarding Vitaly Sukhovych, whom we mentioned earlier, as well as the chief forester of Zhytomyr Region Viktor Sakhnyuk.

We have provided you with only a part of Yuriy Bolokhivets' abuses reported by BlackBox OSINT investigators. You can find the full list on the project's website.

In May, EcoPolitic talked about the new draft law No. 9516 "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on Effective Forest Management Based on Forestry on the Principles of Close-to-Nature Forestry Adapted to Climate Change, and Conservation of Forest Biodiversity," which will allow deforestation with a profitability of 2400%.

We also recently reported that the forestry reform has resulted in the centralization of corruption and a significant increase in deforestation.

We remind you that the government, by its Resolution No. 454 "Some issues of forestry during the period of martial law and amendments to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 724 of May 12, 2007", may turn clearcutting into a method of mass harvesting of commercial timber.

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