Kharkiv authorities open a new front against Gorky Park defenders


The newspaper Ukraina Moloda reports that the Kharkiv civic organization Zeleny Front [Green Front] which has been very active in fighting the destruction of Gorky Park has suddenly found it has a clone. In formal terms the only difference is that the real Zeleny Front is called a civic organization while its clone is called a civic movement.

What does, however, differ – and radically – is the function of each of these “fronts”.  While the original Zeleny Front was created to protect Kharkiv’s Gorky Park and forest area, the clone has more or less the opposite agenda. As well as seeking to destroy the Park, it is clearly intended to discredit Zeleny Front.

“The latter conclusion is asking to be drawn from the information circulated after the recent session of the Kharkiv City Council. This states that a majority of the deputies voted to allocate almost 30 hectares of the Lisopark [the Forest Park] to the above-mentioned civic movement with an environmental brand. So Kharkiv residents not aware of the details of this fiddle could indeed get the impression that in a society where everything is for sale, even activists with a reputation as unwavering defenders of the community’s interests did not hold out against material temptation”.

Zeleny Front decided to hold a press conference before the Council session to inform the public of the fiddle and that the real Zeleny Front is not a legal entity and does not engage in any commercial activities. It’s Coordinator, Viktor Kravchenko explained: “It is for this reason that any transfer of land to us is fundamentally impossible.  By registering in the Department of Justice a structure with the same name, the authorities are trying to discredit a public movement which is opposing the destruction of green areas of the city”.

The planned protest did not work out because of a court ban on holding any demonstrations. This was supposedly because communists were also planning a demonstration and the two groups could get into conflict.

Deputies from the opposition also endeavoured to convince their colleagues that the name was provocative but in vain.  The land was allocated – to the benefit of the Kharkiv Golf Club.

The firm Force C tried the year before last to get the coveted 30 hectares, however local residents came out strongly against the idea.

At that time the reputation of the well-known Kharkiv businessman and owner of the golf club, Yury Sapronov suffered as a result.

The article goes on to explain that the golf club supposedly abandoned its plans for that land. At the above-mentioned Council session, Force C’s apparently new plan to develop the club in a direction opposite the forest area proved beneficial with the Council allocating it almost 31 hectares of land for residential and civil construction. While the land which led to Sapronov’s conflict with local residents has been allocated to the Zeleny Front clone.  Worth mentioning that the Director of this golf club, Yevhen Babych, is also a deputy of the City Council.

“The result of this multi-move gave proved marvellously “fruitful. The deputies from the pro-regime majority improved the higher management’s image, undermined the reputation of their former environmental opponents and, what is interesting, again doomed the same piece of forest to be axed”.

As well as the fact that the deputies regularly allocate land from the Lisopark for building cottages and sport-recreational structures, there has also been much greater activity by illegal tree fellers who sell the wood.

The environmental activists have not been able to ascertain who these people are and who has permitted them to destroy the forest. They don’t show any documents, and although the police turn up when called by the activists, this leads to no real result. Zeleny Front believes that while they’re not giving these poachers permits, nobody is prohibiting their illegal activities either.

According to Zeleny Front’s estimates, since May 2010 when the first scandalous phase of tree-felling began almost 4.5 thousand trees have been destroyed.

Abridged from a report by Larisa Salimonova at:

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