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Illegal Timber Trade in Oleshky Forest, Ukraine

Politician Kateryna “Katja” Handziuk was attacked with acid for her activism against corruption and illegal logging in Kherson, Ukraine. She died on November 4, 2018. The timber corruption continues.


Ukraine has some of the largest remaining forests left in Europe, about 15.9% of the country having forest cover, which are also ecologically important habitats for increasingly endangered wildlife such as bears, wolves, lynx, and bison [2, 4]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Illegal Timber Trade in Oleshky Forest, Ukraine
State or province:Kherson
Location of conflict:Kherson Oblast
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Logging and non timber extraction
Specific commodities:Timber
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In Oleshky, illegal loggers, often in collaboration with gangsters and politicians, collect timber by placing old tires on top of the trees and igniting them to start fires that burn branches but preserve the trunks. They earn anywhere between $20,000 to $30,000 in a single week, far more than the average Ukrainian’s monthly salary of only $311 as of 2018. The trunks are then shipped through the Port of Kherson before being sold to companies such as Schweighofer, Egger, Swiss Krono Group, Kronospan, Lenzing, International Paper, Mondi or the Romanian veneer plant JF Furnir, which belongs to the JAF Group [1, 20].

Project area:600
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:around 290,000
Start of the conflict:27/05/2018
Company names or state enterprises:Lenzing AG from Austria
International Paper Co. (IP) from United States of America
Mondi Paper Company from South Africa
Relevant government actors:Kherson Regional Council
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC),
European Union
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Center for Civil Liberties
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Kateryna “Katja” Handziuk was assaulted in July 2018 and died from injuries three months later.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The illegal logging and corruption continue today. Although activists refuse to drop the Handziuk murder case and the movement against the timber trade continues strongly, there is so much corruption on every level that even what appears to be wins such as new legislation ends up not mattering.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

ENVSEC. Illegal logging in Ukraine (2010)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

6 Euromaidan Press. Top 5 environmental problems in Ukraine (Kuzubov 2019)
[click to view]

11 RFE/RL. Bulgarian Court Arrests Ukrainian Suspected Of Planning Attack On Activist (2020)
[click to view]

4 Environmental Paper Network. EU mills complicit in corruption and illegal logging in Ukraine (Martin 2018)
[click to view]

12 France 24. Ukrainian official arrested over deadly acid attack (2019)
[click to view]

13 EU-OCS. One year after her death, the question remains: Who killed Kateryna Handziuk? (2019)
[click to view]

14 VOA. Ukrainian Official Charged in Acid Attack on Activist After Outcry (2019)
[click to view]

16 112 Ukraine. Law on enhanced accountability for illegal logging, timber export comes into force in Ukraine (2019)
[click to view]

17 Warsaw Institute. Ukraine exports illegal timber to the EU (2018)
[click to view]

18 Mongabay. EU demand siphons illicit timber from Ukraine, investigation finds (Cannon 2018)
[click to view]

5 Hromadske International. Fighting for This Forest May Have Cost Kateryna Handziuk Her Life (2019)
[click to view]

19 What Wood. In 2018 in Ukraine illegally cut down 17,7 thousand m3 of wood (2019)
[click to view]

20 Kyiv Post. Who Killed Katya Gandziuk? (Grytsenko, Schulz 2019)
[click to view]

1 EUWID. Earthsight report on Ukrainian timber industry (2018)
[click to view]

2 Kyiv Post. UK researchers, Ukraine officials face off over illegal timber exports to EU (Talant 2018)
[click to view]

3 Pacific Standard. Ukraine´s massive illegal logging crackdown stalls (Cannon 2018)
[click to view]

7 Atlantic Council. How to make Ukraine ten times better (Francis 2019)
[click to view]

8 UNIAN. Investigators name one of main versions of Kherson activist murder (2018)
[click to view]

10 Daily Beast. Hell on Earth for an Activist Murdered With Acid in Ukraine (Nemtsova 2018)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

9 BBC. VIDEO: Ukraine official charged over acid killing (2019)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update13/03/2020
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