TOP-5 corruption scandals of 2023 in the field of environmental protection

TOP-5 corruption scandals of 2023 in the field of environmental protection

Katerina Belousova

In the Rivne region, all directors of forest farms were dismissed due to chronic corruption problems

In 2023, numerous corruption scandals surfaced in Ukraine in the environmental sector, including in the forestry industry, mining, regulatory authorities, etc. Throughout the year, law enforcement officers managed to uncover a number of corruption schemes, but the defendants in the cases traditionally avoided punishment through fines and bail.

EcoPolitic has prepared for its readers the TOP 5 corruption scandals of the military year 2023.

  • Exposure of the mayor of Sumy;

In October, employees of the Security Service of Ukraine and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau exposed the mayor of Sumy Olexander Lysenko and the director of the infrastructure department Oleksandr Zhurba for corruption. They demanded 2.13 million from a local garbage removal company and threatened artificial obstacles to business if the entrepreneur refused to pay. Officials were detained while receiving a "tranche" of 1.4 million hryvnias.

In October, Lysenko was released on bail in the amount of 3 million hryvnias, and Zhurba – for 1.4 million hryvnias. Also, the court suspended the mayor of Sumy from his post until February 8, and the deputies of the city council received a message about the impossibility of communication with Lysenko.

  • Corruption in the forest farms of the Rivne region;

In November, 150 million hryvnias in national and foreign currency, as well as about 3.5 kg of gold, jewelry, weapons, and three luxury cars were found and seized from the deputy of the Rivne Regional Council, the deputy director of the regional forestry office of the state-owned enterprise "Lysy Ukrainy" and his relatives , plots with cottage construction and other property. He was informed of the suspicion of illegal enrichment. According to the mass media, it is about Vitaly Sukhovych. The Pechersk Court of Kyiv chose a preventive measure for him in the form of detention with the possibility of bail in the amount of 192 million hryvnias.

Ukrainian Forests reacted to the scandal and announced personnel purges. In a few days, all directors of Rivne branches were fired in the region due to chronic deep corruption problems in order to "reboot" the system. After all, for tens of years, the appointment of local managers in the forest industry was significantly influenced by the regional elite, informal ties were formed, a certain system of relationships, the so-called "circular guarantee".

"I believe that this precedent is a signal to all managers of state-owned enterprises: zero tolerance for corruption implies an active position," said General Director of "Forests of Ukraine" Yuriy Bolokhovets.

  • Bribe for the head of the Energy Efficiency Directorate of the Ministry of Infrastructure;

In January, the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested the First Deputy Minister of Community and Territorial Development Vasyl Lozynskyi who was responsible for the activities of the Energy Efficiency Directorate for 3 years for a $400,000 bribe. He is the highest-ranking civil servant arrested for bribery while performing his duties during the time of Ukraine's independence.

According to the editor of "Censor.NET" Yury Butusov, Lozynskyi was considered a person close to the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, through whom it is possible to settle some "personal" issues with the head of the government.

In July, the official was released from the pretrial detention center on bail of 2.5 million hryvnias.

  • Paid emission permits;

Another widespread form of corruption in the environmental sphere is the illegal issuance of permits for emissions of pollutants into the environment. All enterprises that emit pollutants into the air and water bodies must obtain appropriate permits for this free of charge. However, corrupt officials introduced a "tariff net" of bribes.

In August, the court found Volodymyr Didukh, deputy director of the Environmental Department of the EDA, guilty of receiving UAH 6,000 for assisting in issuing permits for emissions of pollutants into the air. The official signed a plea agreement and agreed to pay a UAH 42,500 fine. After the trial, he was dismissed by agreement of the parties.

Similar violations were found in Volyn. In October, law enforcement officers detained the head of a department of the Volyn Regional Military Administration while receiving the last tranche of a UAH 19,000 bribe and notified him of suspicion of extortion and receiving an undue benefit. During August-October 2023, the official received three bribes from an entrepreneur totaling UAH 51 thousand.

  • Fields in the Chernobyl zone.

In November, in Zhytomyr Oblast, in the Narodytskyi community, it was discovered that the village council had illegally leased 1,437 hectares of land in the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl NPP. Cereal crops were grown in the zone of radioactive contamination.

The criminal group was organized by the head of the village, the land administrator and the heads of three economic entities that received land for rent from 2020.

Officials leased land for 2 years for $100 per hectare, or for 10 years for $150. All participants were informed of the suspicion of criminal offenses, in particular for abuse of power or official position and arbitrary occupation of land. They face up to six years in prison. Damages from such a violation reached 37 million hryvnias.

Currently, overcoming corruption is one of the main tasks for Ukraine, in particular against the background of European integration and the beginning of negotiations on joining the EU. However, the Ukrainian authorities often fail to implement even simple reforms with high quality due to the lack of political will, and a number of mechanisms work only "on paper". Although overcoming corruption is a difficult and long-term process, 2023 did not become a "year of success" with real punishments for corrupt officials. It is likely that disclosure of declarations and announced reforms will change the situation in the future. However, due to merciless deforestation, illegal mining and other corruption schemes in the field of environment, especially in the realities of war, this future may not come.