Everyone involved in the illegal amber mining in Ukraine will be punished. No “schemes” will help escape responsibility. It was stated by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a meeting in the Zhytomyr region.
“We have seen from the helicopter what is going on here with devastation of forests, with amber. We will surely deal with this issue. We know all the surnames, everyone who is responsible for plundering of national mineral resources. I think these people will not go too far from our country,” the Head of State emphasized.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that the problem of the illegal amber mining had become an ecological disaster with thousands of hectares of land turned into a desert.
“We understand that people are hunting for amber, that this is a real war of criminal bosses against the state covered by the police, the Security Service, the prosecutor’s office,” the President said.
According to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s information, the volume of the black market of amber is estimated at $ 500 million per year, and the total state losses amount to tens of billions of hryvnias.
The President stressed that the names of the criminal authorities involved in that “business” were known. But at the same time, the statistics of the law enforcement bodies shows only small fines for amber miners.
“I will not name all the surnames. We will start working on everyone in these three regions – Volyn, Rivne and Zhytomyr,” the Head of State noted.
The President also requires to fire the heads of the district police offices and regional departments of the Security Service in the above mentioned regions due to their possible involvement in the illegal amber mining.
In particular, Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Chief of Ukrainian National Police Serhiy Knyazev to dismiss the heads of the police in the Rokytne, Dubrovytsia, Volodymyrets, Zarichne and Sarny districts of the Rivne region, Olevs’k and Ovruch districts of the Zhytomyr region, Ratne and Lyubeshiv districts of the Volyn region.
“They do not help our country,” the Head of State emphasized.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also urged Head of the Zhytomyr Regional Department for Forestry and Hunting Andriy Kurinskyi to resign.
The Head of State noted that Andriy Kurinskyi had been working at his post for 5 years already. “Exactly 5 years of plundering. If the state does not need you, can you look for another job? Can you resign?” the President said.
He also urged the head of the chief department of the National Police of the Zhytomyr region to resign, as he cannot handle the problem of the illegal amber mining.
In addition, the attendees discussed the need for an increased liability for the illegal amber mining and the necessity of legislative changes.
Deputy Head of the President’s Office Ruslan Ryaboshapka said: “It reminds me a bureaucratic theater – we lack the powers, the legislation is not appropriate… Criminal bosses control a huge sector of the state economy and public life. Maybe we just need to change the people who can fulfill the powers they have? Under today’s Criminal Code, anyone can be imprisoned. We see law-abiding citizens imprisoned, in particular farmers, and we do not see criminal bosses covering amber mining imprisoned”.
Deputy Head of the Office of the President Oleksiy Honcharuk stressed that Ukraine could receive huge profits from the mining and sale of amber.
“Instead, 20% of stones are pumped out of the earth by barbaric methods, 80% remain. After that, they are transported to Poland, where 70% of profit remain. As a result, we have less than 30% of profit from 20% of stones,” Oleksiy Honcharuk said.
According to him, in the areas of the illegal amber mining, representatives of law enforcement agencies, the Security Service of Ukraine and prosecutors worked together with criminals. In addition, there are separate groups of influence at the State Forest Resources Agency and the State Service of Geology and Mineral Resources.
“There is only the acting head in the State Forest Resources Agency. And why doesn’t the government appoint a head? Because they cannot reach an agreement on how to share the spheres of influence. There is one group and there is another group. And they are “pulling” the agency. And no one can work properly. The same story is in the State Service of Geology and Mineral Resources – there are even more groups of influence. I think that the activity of all these people should be the subject of a very careful study of the prosecutor’s office and the Security Service,” Oleksiy Honcharuk emphasized.