Rebellious neighbourhood of Kharkov: mass disruption of deforestation

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All over the world, grassroots activist communities stand in the way of the robbery and devastation of living space by wild predatory capitalism. Sometimes victoriously, sometimes not so much. Despite the atmosphere of fatigue and demoralisation that has covered Ukraine since last year, even in a front-line city it is possible join this global confrontation. And not without results!

The problem of illegal sand mining near the Zhykhar (other spellings – Zhikhar, Zhykhor) neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Kharkov started back in the 2000s. Sometime in 2008, it was stopped due to spontaneous rallies of the population and the presence of journalists, later other gangs started it again. Around 2014, it was stopped for the same reasons after a year or a year and a half of struggle.

Lake of Osnova, also called the Komsomol quarry, is known for the last pine forest remaining in this second largest city of Ukraine after it massively died on Saltovka due to climate warming, and the Grigorovsky pine forest became practically mixed. This summer began with another attempt to destroy it. On June 1st, photos of the loggers’ work in the Shcherbachevsky pine forest spread across city social networks.

Like earlier, the forest was being cut down for the sand quarry development. Some evidence of female residents from the week of June 8th-15th:

“Don’t get me wrong, but since there are now many more friends/acquaintances/relatives living abroad, mainly in Europe, than before, they know that in such cases (such as price increases for something and not only this) strikes, rallies, etc. are immediately called, and people defend their rights, and quite successfully, I’d say. There, if something doesn’t go down well with the people, even some insignificant trifle by our standards, the government gets it in full and is forced to take the people into account, whether it wants it or not, at least some compromise is reached that suits both sides. Just notice: food prices go up once every 10 years, and that’s with a stretch, utility prices and taxes – almost never, and so on in everything. And here we’re sick of it: if war doesn’t kill, then prices will finish off. I’m not agitating for rallies in any way, but I’d like to discuss it. Just to clarify, for those who don’t see the situation as a whole and don’t understand the consequences: right behind the furniture factory there will be a slope down (a quarry); there will not be a single pine or fir tree; the houses on the edge will be near the cliff, risking sliding down at any moment along with the residents and all their belongings; everyone who has wells in the yard will say goodbye to them… That’s in short. They are simply cutting down the forest, will get rich on this and will go away, then we will have to live with the consequences. It’s time to learn not to believe empty promises, but to turn on the brain and preferably in time, not to wave our hands afterwards and tell how good it was before and how bad it is now.”

“We will be left without a forest and a lake – and the children will have nowhere else to go for a walk. And the kindergarten and nearby houses will most likely stick their nose in and collapse. So inaction will lead to us being left with nothing. All of us must stop this. Not just a few. If we remain silent, we will be left without a forest. All this should not remain only in a Telegram channel. The war may end tomorrow and where will our children go? How will they go to kindergarten, or will they fall straight from kindergarten into a quarry. The only place more or less untouched by the war, a place where you can walk with children, a place where people come from everywhere. They are going to turn it into a quarry in order to make money. And all we will have left will be memories of how we walked to kindergarten along a path through the forest. We must not allow lawlessness to flourish during war. Because people with money think differently.”

“For now, all actions to cut down our forest have been stopped. An investigation is underway into the acts of foresters. A letter has been sent to our Mayor. Letters have been sent to the competent authorities regarding the forest logging uncoordinated with the Community. Our task is to ensure that nothing is done. We continue to traverse the forest. I thank everyone for helping to protect our Forest.”

The rally on June 9th covered by gathered several dozens of people. As many men from 18 to 60 now try not to go to the streets to avoid kidnapping and tortures in the enlistment basements, there were mostly women and children:

Although this forest was artificially planted in the Soviet years as a plantation for harvesting wood, it has a nature conservation status. The fight against deforestation for sand mining has flared up in Zhykhar for the second time since last summer. A year ago, Geosand LLC tried to seize 19.5 hectares for these purposes, half a kilometer from the southern outskirts of the neighborhood. Thanks to the Assembly’s readers and other concerned public, the plan was not approved. You can read about this in Ukrainian or in English. In 2020, another mass protest prevented gas extraction in the immediate vicinity of the settlement by the largest Ukrainian capitalist Rinat Akhmetov.

This mining business is associated with a Kharkov deputy from the presidential party Pavlo Yakymenko, who heads the subcommittee on the protection and optimal use of mineral resources in the parliamentarian Committee on Environmental Policy and Nature Management. As of 2019, he was the ultimate beneficiary of Kharkivnerudprom LLC. Short before the war, this enterprise became famous for violent attacks on local residents opposing sand quarries in eastern suburbs of Kharkov.

Two months ago, Pavlo Yakymenko, of course, voted for the butcher law on mobilisation. Like all the others elected from this city in 2019. The land and minerals for respected citizens will not defend themselves from the aggressor, and these citizens somehow do not want to die for it personally.

Along with this, see also this last spring publication about terrible crimes of gas and oil industry against the nature of our places during the war.