Russian occupiers have seized the administrations of almost all nature reserves and national parks in eastern and southern Ukraine. The invaders set fire to forests because they believe that partisans are hiding there, and hunt national park employees because they consider them "Nazis."
Oleksiy Vasylyuk, chairman and co-founder of the Ukrainian Nature Protection Group, said this during an online discussion "Ecology and War: The Consequences of Russia's Military Invasion on Ukraine's Environment" organized by the NGO Internews Ukraine, the Center for Investigative Journalism reports.
"There are 16 parks and reserves in the east and south. All of their administrations have been seized and looted, except for the F.E. Falz-Fein Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve. Something happened there as a result of the invaders' actions. Something was completely destroyed. In some administrations, scientific achievements have been completely looted. Everything that biologists and other scientists have been doing for years no longer exists. In general, we know nothing about the fate of some protected areas. For example, the Azov-Sivash National Nature Park in the Kherson region. We know that two employees each were able to leave the Meotida National Park in Donetsk Oblast and the Pryazovia National Park in Zaporizhzhia Oblast," Vasyluk said.
According to him, the occupants have mined Dzharylgach National Nature Park in Skadovsk district of Kherson region.
"Thousands of tourists will not be able to go to Dzharylgach, even in case of de-occupation. But this will also make it impossible for scientists and other park employees to work. How can they do anything useful for nature? No way," the expert said.-
He noted that environmentalists are particularly concerned about fires in the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, as well as on the front line from Izyum to Lyman.
"Locals say that the Russian occupiers are deliberately setting fire to the forests because they are afraid of the partisans who may be hiding there. If this is true, then this reason is an indicator of the dementia and low intellectual level of Russians. But even if this is not the case, why do the occupiers not allow firefighters to go and extinguish the fires?" Vasilyuk pointed out.-
According to him, all employees of national parks are in danger.
"There is a case when a list of employees in one of the parks got into the hands of the occupiers. Ordinary people will see the names of people and, possibly, their positions. But the invaders saw something fundamentally different in that list. In their minds, only Nazis could be in the national nature park. And it doesn't matter if these people work as cleaners, mechanics, or drivers. All of them can be safely declared "Nazis". This may be perceived as a kind of curiosity, but people are under real threat," the expert said.-
He added that the Askania-Nova Biosphere Reserve is under threat of extinction due to the actions of the occupiers. To prevent this, all of its 269 employees decided to stay at their jobs and not leave.
"These people say that the reserve will die without them. That is why they continue to mow part of the territory of Askania Nova, feed animals, treat 1,500 ungulates alone, and take care of the arboretum and the settlement. Much depends on the uninterrupted operation of the artesian well. If these people are gone, the reserve will be gone in a matter of weeks. That's why they continue to work, even though they have been left without salaries. It's scary to imagine what might happen there in the event of fighting for the liberation of Askania Nova. However, I hope that the reserve, which has already survived two wars, will survive the third. And I hope that the state will recognize those people who are doing everything possible to protect and preserve our heritage, risking their lives," Vasilyuk said.-
Author - Serhii Kolomiets, 10/04/2023