war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Human rights in Ukraine – 2008. Human rights in Ukraine – 2008. 16. ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS



1. The Right to a safe environment

After five years of doing nothing to prepare and publish a «National Report on the State of the Environment in Ukraine», the Ministry for Environmental Protection [MEP] finally placed a draft National Report for 2006 on its website[2]. However this document, like the previous report for 2004, in breach of Article 25-1 of the Law «On protection of the natural environment», was not presented for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada and was not published in a separate edition. Its content has therefore not yet become accessible to other authorities and to the public at large.

The fact that National Reports for 2007 and 2008 have not been produced prevents us from drawing comprehensive general conclusions about the state of environmental safety in the country and the observance of environmental rights in 2008. Among the failings of the last draft National Report one should mention first and foremost the lack of proper attention to legal issues, and the issue of observance of environmental rights.

Analysis of the state of the environment suggests continuing escalation in the levels of the manmade burden upon it which are several times higher than those in developed countries.[3].

Figures for air pollution in Ukrainian cities, pollution of river basins and the radiation situation in zones around Ukrainian nuclear power plants provided in the MEP information and analytical reviews for the 1st to 3rd quarters of 2008[4] are considerably in excess of maximum permissible levels

During the first three quarters of 2008 the air was most polluted in city of the East and Central regions, and in some parts of the Southern and Western regions. The most widespread pollutants are formaldehyde and nitrogen dioxide which are toxic compounds of grade 2 danger. In some cities pollution with formaldehyde is five times higher, or more, than allowed, nitrogen dioxide and dust at least 2 times higher.

The list of Eastern cities with the worst atmospheric include: Donetsk, Dzherzhynsk, Horlivka, Kramatorsk, Makiyivka, Mariupol, Lysychansk, Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, Slovyansk and Yenakiyeve. In the Central Region, the worst air quality is found in Dniprodzherzhynsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kryvy Rih; in the South – Kherson, Odessa and Zaporizhya; in the West – Khmelnytsky and Lviv, while in the North – Kyiv and Sumy.

Five Eastern cities show consistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air: in Donetsk around 2.8 times the maximum permissible concentration; in Slovyansk – 3.5 times; Yenakiyeve – 2.7 times; Makiyivka – 2.5 times and Horlivka – 2.4. The average monthly concentration of formaldehyde during the reporting period was in excessive of the permissible norm in 11 out of the 14 cities of the region and ranged from 0.8 to 5.7 the permissible norm: in Mariupol – 6.3 of the permissible norm; in Rubizhne – 6.3; Severodonetsk and Lysychank – both 6.0. The sources of the pollutant were production of construction material, metallurgy, thermal power engineering, chemical industry and vehicle fumes.

According to the State Department of Statistics the density of emissions from stationery sources of pollution, calculated per square kilometre of the country’s territory amounted to 7.5 tonnes of harmful substances, and per head of population – almost 100 kilograms. However in some regions these figures were considerably in excess of the average level. In the Donetsk region density was more than 7.7 times higher, and per head of population – 3.5 times; with the analogous figures for the Dnipropetrovsk region being 4.0 and 2.9; the Luhansk region – 2.8 and 2.5; and the Ivano-Frankivsk region – 2.3 and 1.8. In Kyiv, per square kilometre 32.1 tonnes of pollutants were released, this being 4.3 times the average level. As compared with 2007 an increase in harmful emissions was recorded in 12 regions, with the most significant being in the Kherson region (with an increase of 2.4 thousand tonnes, or 26%); the Kyiv region (13.8 thousand, or 15%); the Lviv, Mykolaiv and Chernihiv regions (15.9 thousand, 3.1 thousand, 5.4 thousand, or 14%); the Cherkasy region (by 4.4 thousand, or 11%), and the Kharkiv region (by 12.9 thousand or by 8%).[5].

This is not the first year that we are observing a paradoxical situation where against a background of stable or reduced levels of production, there is a worrying increase in the level of emissions of pollutants. The reasons for this are physical deterioration, and / or the lack of cleaning systems in production and in the communal economy. During 2007 around 5 billion cubic metres of insufficiently purified drainage water was poured into reservoirs as against 3 billion in 1990. 1.4 billion cubic metres of polluted drainage water was dumped into reservoirs without any purification at all, this being three times as much as in 1990.[6]. In some regions the level of polluted water dumped into rivers exceeds the natural flow. The amount of water used per item of production is 2.5 times higher than in France and 4.3 times higher than in Germany or the United Kingdom.

As a consequence, a huge number of water areas have lost their natural purity and water qualities with their capacity for self-purification being disrupted. Water areas are contaminated with compounds of heavy metals, nitrogen, sulphates, oil products and phenols. There is a noticeably high number of unusually high water pollution, the highest number during the second quarter of 2008. As compared with the previous period there was an increase in pollution of the river basis of the West Bug, the Dniester, Southern Bug, and streams in the Crimea. The greatest number of extreme levels of contamination were recorded in the Dniester Basin (with nitrogen and copper), the Siversky Donets (nitrogen and nitrites and oil products).

For example, the concentration of copper in the rivers Poltva, Rata, Solokiy (the Western Bug Basin, Lviv region) in the first quarter of 2008 varied between 5.5 -15, 0 of the maximum permissible concentration which is classified as an extreme level of pollution. An extreme level of contamination with oil products was recorded in the water of the Dniester in the district of Old Sambir {Lviv region) – 67.7 the maximum permissible concentration.

In the first – third quarters of 2008 the amount of radioactive caesium-137 in the reservoirs of the zone of influence of the Rivne, Khmelnytsky, Southern Ukrainian and Zaporizhya nuclear power plants did not exceed the control limit (3.700 becquerel per cubic metre). The maximum content of radionuclides was recorded in the Hlyboke Lake. This was tens of times higher than the control level, and in January 2008 was 120, 000 becquerels per cubic metre, in August – 110, 000 Bq/ м3, and in September – 100, 000 Bq//м3.

Overall in the zone of exclusion and the zone which people had to be moved from, there are around 2800 thousand cubic metres of radioactive waste, as well as 1, 700 thousand м3 at the Chernobyl Shelter. A considerable part of this amount is kept in conditions which do not comply with established norms for radiation safety. With any manmade activities in the zone there is threat of disruption of the regime of radiation safety, of the spread of areas of radioactive dirt and additional irradiation of personnel.

In 2007 the Ministry for Environmental Protection gave a generally negative assessment of a plan to build a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in the exclusion zone. This is seen in the conclusion of the State Environmental Impact Assessment posted on the Ministry’s website.[7]. One is therefore more than bemused by the activity shown by NNEGC [National Nuclear Energy Generating Company] Energoatom which, despite the conclusion of the environmental assessment, is continuing to lobby for the plan to build a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear waste in the exclusion zone. At the end of 2008 it submitted this plan for the Cabinet of Ministers’ approval[8].

The list of the ten worst polluters of the environment in 2008 still contains the following enterprises: «Zaporizhstal»; the Burshtyn Thermal Electric Power Station «Zakhidenergo» (the city of Burshtyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region); the Dniprovsky Metallurgic Complex named after Dzherzhynsky; (Dniprodzherzhynsk); «ArsenorMittal Kryvy Rih»; the Thermal Electric Power Station»Dniproenergo» (Zelenodolsk), the Illich Metallurgic Industrial Complex (Mariupol); Azovstal (Mariupol); the Starobeshevska Thermal Electric Power Station; Donbasenergo; the Alchevsky Metallurgic Industrial Complex; Lysychansk Soda.[9].

The law enforcement agencies point out a trend during 2008 towards an increase in the scale of violations of environmental protection legislation, both by enterprises, institutions and organizations, and by bodies of local self-government and State control.[10].

It is justified to attribute major violations of the human right to environmental safety and protection of health from unfavourable environmental influences to longstanding neglect of the principles of sustainable development which envisages considering environmental factors when taking any decisions.


2. Assessment of adherence to international environmental conventions

2.1. UN European Economic Commission Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention)

In June 2008 it was 10 years since Ukraine signed the Aarhus Convention. 2009 marks 10 years since its ratification, when the Convention became a part of domestic legislation. Unfortunately, the country is marking these anniversaries with a heavy burden of unfulfilled obligations – before the parties to the Convention, as well as to its own citizens. The authorities keep the public in blissful ignorance about the decisions of the Second and Third Meetings of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention with regard to Ukraine. They have still not been published in any official media outlet or on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministry for Environmental Protection.

The content of these decisions is deeply worrying for Ukraine. The Third Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention which took place in June 2008 in Riga, Latvia, found Ukraine and Turkmenistan to be countries not adhering to the demands of the Convention.[11]. The Meeting’s decision states that the Government of Ukraine, as previously, is not sufficiently taking part in the process of considering observance of the Convention and is not taking measures to implement the decision of the previous Meeting. Over the past four years the Government had not implemented the recommendations issued by the Second Meeting held in Almaty to draw up a strategy plan for implementing the Convention, bring its legislation into line with its provisions, setting out clear procedure for public participation in decision-making and practical mechanisms for applying the Convention.[12].

Given that the Government had waived any role in drawing up a strategy plan, literally on the eve of the Riga Meeting, the Minister H. Philipchuk issued an Instruction approving a Plan of Strategic Decisions of the Ministry for Environmental Protection [MEP] on implementing the Aarhus Convention.[13]. The document was passed without any prior public discussion. Although at present the Plan is still on the Ministry’s website, it is clearly of purely historical interest as a model of MEP strategic planning.

On the day that the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Convention began in Riga, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union [UHHRU] sent its participants an Open Appeal on Ukraine’s lack of compliance with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention[14] UHHRU called on the participants in the Meeting and the UNECE Compliance Committee to apply the most effective measures of influence at their disposal to force the state authorities to fully honour their commitments. In their view the Parties to the Convention should toughen procedure for ensuring adherence. In this sense the issue of adherence to the Aarhus Convention could be brought up for special review in other international structures, for example, in the European Parliament and in the higher bodies of the UN.

The Riga Meeting of the Parties to the Convention issued Ukraine with a caution and proposed that it:

·  bring its legislation and practice into line with the provisions of the Convention;

·  draw up before the end of 2008 an action plan containing clear internal regulation of time frames and procedure for consultations with the public, making comments and providing information which forms the basis for decision-making;

·  set out in the action plan transparent procedure ensuring that it is carried out in a transparent manner and in full consultation with civic society.

On 27 December 2008 the Cabinet of Ministers approved «Action Plan on Implementation of the decision of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention III/6f».[15] Its adoption was not preceded by any steps by the Government, nor by the passing of any Governmental (ministerial) for establishing transparent procedure of public consultation at the level of adoption and implementation.

The Cabinet of Ministers did not react to the proposal of civic organizations to hold public consultations on this issue in accordance with the provisions of its own Resolution from 15 October 2004 No. 1378 and the Aarhus Convention.[16].

We would name the following as the name failings of the Action Plan:

·  the implementer of all measures of the Plan is exclusively the Ministry for Environmental Protection. Thus the Aarhus Convention continues to be viewed as a departmental convention of this ministry, while the highest institutions of power: the Cabinet of Ministers, the President, the Verkhovna Rada, the Ombudsperson, law enforcement and judicial bodies consciously remove themselves from the process of its introduction;

·  the list of members of the Inter-Departmental Working Group on ensuring Implementation of the Decision of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention (note that there is no talk of implementing the Convention itself, this is merely about the specific criticism and subsequent requirements imposed) does not include representatives of the public, bodies of local self-government, the higher State bodies or law enforcement structures;

·  the Plan does not specify which particular laws need amendments as part of the process of implementing the norms of the Convention;

·  the concept of «environmental information» (which is the wording of the Aarhus Convention) has been perfidiously substituted with the term «information about the state of the environment». In this way activity on formulating normative acts does not include: information of public significance on activity or measures in the environmental sphere, economic analysis of expenditure and results having impact on the environment, people’s state of health and safety, conditions of life, the condition of constructions with respect to how the state of the environment has impact on this.

Since MEP is planning in 2009 to concentrate on implementation of the Action Plan on Implementation of the Decision of the Meeting, behinds the above-mentioned MEP Plan of Strategic Decisions from 1 May, it was decided to consign to oblivion yet another document – «Strategy and the Plan for Implementing the provisions of the Convention «On access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention)» in Ukraine up to 2020». The creation of this strategy plan was aimed to coincide with the Meeting of Parties. It was drawn up by the Ukrainian division of the international union «Ecology of Man» at MEP commissioning and obviously State funding, in accordance with a tender, the conditions of which have never been made public. At the present time the «Strategy and plan» have disappeared without trace from the Ministry’s site, and representatives of the Ministry have simply advised the public to «forget about that».

There are thus more than sufficient grounds for asserting that following the last Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, the Ministry for Environmental Protection is still not demonstrating political will to introduce its provisions in legislation and practice of State bodies. There would seem in fact to be only a pitiful imitation of this process. The higher bodies of power in 2008 did not carry out any real steps aimed at ensuring its obligations under the Convention.

2.2. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

At one stage the President[17] and Cabinet of Ministers passed programme decisions on implementing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to this.[18] One can speak now of incomplete fulfilment by the authorities, including the Ministry for Environmental Protection, of its commitments under the National Action Plan for Implementation of the Provisions of the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ukraine is still not carrying out its commitments under Article 4 of the Convention to formulate, carry out, publish and regularly update nationwide and regional programmes containing measures on ameliorating the consequences of climate change (planned deadline for implementation was October 2008). On the MEP website as usual it was impossible to find the announced National Action Plan.[19] Under such circumstances there can clearly be sense in talking about regional action plans.

The public’s attention was attracted in 2008 by the successful outcome of two court suits brought by the environmental organization «Environment-People-Law» [EPL] against the Ministry for Environmental Protection and examined by the Lviv Regional Economic Court. The claim represented by EPL lawyer M. Bulgakova asked the court to declare unlawful the inaction of the Ministry with regard to observance of the provisions of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was prompted by the fact that EPL had on many occasions sent formal requests for information to the Ministry but had received no response regarding its activity on protecting against climate change.

The Ministry did not provide any evidence to the court that it was carrying out in a proper manner its obligations with regard to the National Action Plan for Implementation of the Provisions of the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The court found that as the coordinator of measures on implementing these agreements, the Ministry’s inaction was unlawful. It also ordered the Ministry to take measures aimed at implementing climate-protecting policy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and carry out a number of points of the Kyoto Protocol, the relevant acts passed by the Cabinet of Ministers, the President and the National Security and Defence Council.[20].

The mechanism of international trade in emission quotas and the activity of the Government on using the money gained on projects to reduce greenhouse gas omissions is placed in the sphere of environmental protection which envisages the need to fulfil all procedure on public access to environmental information and public participation in decision-making. The requirement arises therefore to unfailingly adhere to the provisions of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Aarhus Convention with regard to public participation in adopting all normative legal acts and decisions concerning international sale of quotas, financing projects of joint implementation green investment projects..

Transparency of the procedure for a green investment set up envisages the publishing on the websites of MEP and the National Agency for Environmental Investment of all draft documents, at least a month before the decision is to be adopted in order to receive comments from all interested parties. The comments must also be published so that other interested parties can read them. Each commentary should receive an official response from the authorities regarding their acceptance or rejection according to the Law «On citizens’ appeals. The authorities should also ensure absolute open access to reports on implementation of projects using money from the sale of quotas.

Unfortunately in 2008 one could observe only the first precedents of such policy among a considerable number of examples reflecting attempts to take decisions behind the scene on the use of climate protection funds. In March 2008, after an active campaign of public lobbying, MEP finally began publishing in accordance with the requirements of the Framework Convention information about projects of joint implementation. Since then on the official website of the Ministry one can read projects which are under consideration, or have already received letters of support.[21]. However the National Reports on Cadastres of Emissions and Absorption of Glasshouse Gases are only available for the period up to 2006.[22]

The National Agency for Environmental Investments, in breach of the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, did not in 2008 place registers of glasshouse gas emissions on its website. As of the end of February 2009, the registers of emissions had not been made public. Under such conditions Ukraine will simply not be able to carry out a transparent sale of its quotas and use the funds received in a justified and responsible fashion. As a result, the arrangements which the Government vocally advertised about the beginning of practical green investment activity (for example, on the sale of a part of the quota to Japan ї[23]) may arouse criticism from other parties to the Framework Convention, a decision by the Japanese partners to reject cooperation, and even new debt obligations for the country’s budget.

The position of civic organizations with regard to Ukraine’s position at the UN negotiations on climate change

There was no response from the Government to the proposals from environmental organizations regarding Ukraine’s position at the scheduled UN international negotiations on climate chance in Poznań in December 2008. The main aim of the negotiations was to seek agreement on a reduction in countries’ emissions by 2020. Ukraine’s Government declared an intention to reduce glasshouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990. Yet civic environmental organizations in the course of several wide-scale public actions have endeavoured to convince the authorities that such commitments only deceive the international community since Ukraine’s emissions are already considerably less and come to only 44% of the 1990 level. Thus, with such a «commitment» Ukraine can do nothing at all on reducing emissions. Environmental organizations consider that in 2020 the level of Ukraine’s emissions should at least be no higher than at the present time[24].

2.3. The UN Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context (the Espoo Convention)

The objective of the Espoo Convention is to assess adverse transboundary impact of human activities and to report on this to other parties to the Convention, provide warning, minimize such impact, inform and monitor it.

At the end of December 2007 Romania submitted a statement to the Espoo Convention Compliance Committee expressing concern over the environmental consequences of the construction of a deep water Danube – Black Sea Canal in the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta. Romania thus created a precedent in the history of the Convention (since 1997) of considering the complaint of one country against another over non-compliance with the requirements of this international agreement.[25]. However the Cabinet of Ministers and Ministry for Environmental Protection clearly decided not to add to the Ukrainian public’s worries by informing them about the approach of a neighbouring country to the Convention’s Compliance Committee. There was simply no report of it at all in the official national press.

The Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention took place from 19-21 May 2008. At the Meeting Ukraine effectively admitted its violation of Article 3 of the Convention in not providing the Parties to the Convention and the public of its own country with information about the adverse transboundary impact of the project. The Ukrainian Delegation committed itself to review its final decision on building the canal, hold consultations with the Secretariat and members of the Committee on Implementation of the Espoo Convention, the European Commission and with their support fully carry out its international obligations.[26] It was only on 11 August that the Ministry for Environmental Protection notified that it was withdrawing the second phase of the plan for the deep-water canal. At the end of the year it placed in the second of its website on Interaction with the Public an «Assessment of the impact on the environment in the transboundary aspect of the plan for reinstating the deep-water Danube – Black Sea Canal in the form of a many-volume study by the Ukrainian Institute of Environmental Issues.[27]. Of course, in this case too the respectable Ministry gave preference for communicating with the Ukrainian people to the English language alone.

The authorities have not explained where exactly the non-fulfilment of the provisions of the Convention lie in the process of planning and building the deep-water canal and what changes need to be made to Ukraine’s decision regarding this project, in order to fulfil the country’s international commitments. Instead during the year publications continued to appear in many media outlets, including some that are State-owned, , the tenor of which boiled down to waxing lyrical about the positive economic benefits of the project – «an economic miracle on the Danube», «a window to Europe», etc – and a lack of negative environmental impact on the implementation of the project.

At the same time in no media outlet was any information to be found about the content of Romania’s report on this issue, provided to the Committee on the Implementation of the Espoo Convention in October 2008. There was no official notification of the content of the comments and recommendations to Ukraine in the Committee’s decision which found that Ukraine had infringed a number of articles of the Convention in the course of decision-making with regard to the construction of the canal and incomplete fulfilment of its commitments given at the May meeting of the Parties to the Convention.[28].

Thus the «Danube Project» during 2008 continued to tar Ukraine’s international image, complicating its relations with neighbouring countries, demonstrating the authorities’ silence over its negative environmental impact, its double standards with regard to the public, scientists and international organizations.

On the other hand the Ministry for Environmental Protection avoided answering a formal request for information regarding whether Ukraine planned to make use of the Espoo Convention’s mechanisms should other countries not fulfil their commitments in implementing projects which could have a transboundary impact on the environment and threaten the environmental safety of Ukrainians, for example, a plan to build a factory for destroying chemical weapons in the town of Pochep, the Bryansk region of the Russian Federation..[29] An assessment of the transboundary impact of this project has not been made public by the Russian Government.[30].

3. The catastrophic flood of 23-27 July 2008 in Western Ukraine

A strong cyclone from 22-28 in the Carpathian region led to heavy rain. In those days alone50-344 mm. of rain fell in the Lviv region; 38-399 mm. in the Ivano-Frankivsk region; 98 – 276 mm. in the Chernivtsi region; 92 – 107 mm. in the Ternopil region; and 115-260 mm. in the Khmelnytsky region, this being 95-293% of the monthly norm. The basins of the Dniester and tributaries of the Danube (Pruta, Sireta) reached a record level close to the historic floods of 1941 and 1969. Due to the vast scale of the consequences for an area encompassing a considerable part of the Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi, Lviv, Ternopil, Transcarpathian and Vinnytsa regions, the flood can be considered the biggest natural catastrophe in all the years of Ukraine’s independence.

As a result, in the disaster area approximately 42 thousand houses were flooded, more than 35 thousand hectares of agricultural land suffered damage, 360 vehicle and 560 pedestrian bridges were destroyed, and 681 kilometres of car roads (not counting forest industry roads) were swept away.[31]. According to information from the Ministry for Emergencies, 32 people died in the disaster zone between 23-28 July.[32]. The largest number of victims were in the Ivano-Frankivsk region – 25 people, 7 of them children. Just in the village of Prutivka, in the Snyatynsk district, the flood claimed 8 lives.

Unnecessary human loss can in the majority of cases be explained by inadequate monitoring and forecasting of extreme meteorological phenomena, a poor system of information about emergencies, and low capacity of sections of the Ministry for Emergencies and Civil Defence to react to a major natural disaster. The authorities were forced to acknowledge that the State had from a technological and organizational point of view been incapable of withstanding such a test.[33] There is virtually no single system of civil defence in the country. A State service for providing emergency assistance has not been created. Special units are not ready for the tasks they have been vested with and their equipment does not meet modern requirements. More than 80% of the technological items which the Ministry for Emergencies Public Defence Service have been equipped with have been used for more than 20-30 years. Modern types of technology and means of swift reaction form only 3%, while means for rescuing people, individual equipment and defence – 20% of what is needed.[34].

The catastrophic consequences of the July floods were also caused by miscalculations in planning and building of populated areas, the construction of hydraulic and energy structures, in the court of their exploitation. The State to a large degree has lost control over the situation in the water, forest and agricultural fields, and the development of precious stone.

Unnatural transformation of large territories led to additional risks as far as environment safety, stability is concerned, and heightened ruinous force of the flood.

The consequences of the disaster in the initial period heightened attention to the issue of forestry in the Carpathian area. After all it is known that the level of forestation in the Carpathian Mountains is considerably lower than the environmental optimum (36.7% as against the optimum 50-55%)[35]. Unfortunately over the last decades forest ecosystems have been seriously interfered with this considerably altering the nature of the flow and water regime of rivers. Excessive felling and irrational practice with forest renewal have seriously damaged the forests of the Western region. The amount of forest in the Dniester Basin has halved over the last century, with the existing forest plantations insufficient and spread irrationally[36]. In just 10-15 post-War years around 20% of land in the Carpathians was stripped of forest. The scale of felling over recent decades is in excess of the capacity of the forest ecosystems for renewal. The percentage of mature forest is unacceptably low (in real terms from 5-10% while the optimum is 18-20%), whereas it is known that it is specifically century-old forests with diversity of types which best fulfil their ecological functions.

The local powers that be are deliberately hampering implementation of the laws, programmes and decrees of the President on creating new natural-reserve territories. One example is the opposition over many years to the establishment of national parks «Hutsulshchyna» in the Ivano-Frankivsk region and the «Dniester Canyon» in the Ternopil region.

Since independence, a totally corrupt network of shadow business has developed in the Carpathian forest. The area around the Carpathian Mountains is presently fulfilling the function of a raw material supplement for the tree-felling industry of neighbouring countries. According to the Head of the Forestry Committee, State forestry enterprises alone in previous years have exported more than 20% of unprocessed wood (around 2.5 million cubic metres of forest each year) abroad.[37] However a larger percentage of forest export is carried out by private firms. There are not just isolated instances where forest has been smuggled out of the country. During the year criminal investigations into such cases were initiated by the Prosecutor of the Transcarpathian, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, and Chernivtsi regions.[38].

Law enforcement and controlling agencies, other authorities as well as the local population are being dragged into the shadow business. Over the last decade the forestry industry in the Carpathians has become virtually out of control. Principles of sustainable forest use are ignored, the age at which trees are felled is unwarrantedly lowered, and the practice which has frequently been criticized of total felling is continuing. This is carried out on hilly steep slopes and in river valleys, in the warm time of the year, with barbaric methods of transporting the felled trees and littering of the woodcutting areas. This destroys the undergrowth and causes erosion, mud torrents and landslides posing a real threat to populated areas and communications. It is specifically the Carpathian region which is most plagued year in year out by such mud torrents and landslides.[39] During the July floods just in the Ivano-Frankivsk region alone 214.4 kilometres of forest roads and 127 bridges on them were devastated.[40]

During the first weeks after the floods, the President issued an Instruction ordering the creation of a special commission headed by the Deputy Prosecutor General T.V. Kornyakova to investigate the running of the forest industry in the disaster zone.[41] The Commission was instructed to study the level of observance of forestry legislation, analyze the measures carried out on protecting and defending forests, examine whether legislation was adhered to in taking decisions on withdrawing land from the forest fund and to submit proposals on ordering the use of forests, etc. Unfortunately, no official report on the work of this Commission has yet been made public. The Prosecutor General has only informed of isolated offences in response to formal requests for information on this subject addressed to the President and Prosecutor General.[42].

In the course of checks carried out by the Prosecutors of the regions which suffered from the floods, 98 criminal investigations were initiated into the unlawful felling of trees, half of which were submitted to the courts. For example, in the Dubivske forest area on a steep slope over an area of 3 hectares the State enterprise «Tyachivderzhspetslishosp» had felled without permission over 1.6 thousand trees over 1 thousand cubic metres, causing damage of almost 2 million UAH. The Prosecutor’s Office of the Ivano-Frankivsk region submitted a criminal file to the court regarding officials of the State enterprise «Kutske Forest Enterprise» who had concealed cases of illegal felling of trees with a total value of 380 thousand UAH.[43] According to information from the State Economic Inspectorate, in the Ternopil region just in the current year the State enterprise «Berezhanuahrolic» had cut down trees in the forests without permission, to the tune of more than 800 thousand UAH. The investigations into these cases are being run by the Security Service [SBU]

The State as represented by law enforcement, controlling and water industry bodies, allowed wide-scale barbaric extraction of river stone, gravel and sand simply in the channels of Carpathian streams and on the land of the water fund.[44]. This unlawful and entirely unregulated practice is exacerbating the devastating effect of floods, causing the migration of currents and creating danger sites and the threat of large areas of the banks, including in populated areas, being washed away.

The State Economic Inspectorate, in the Ternopil region has on a number of occasions informed of sand and gravel being unlawfully taken away from the Dniester and on the territory of the Dnistrovsky Canyon in the Buchatsk, Zalishchytsk and Monastyrsk districts. As the results of checks carried out in the riverbeds near two villages in these districts protocols on administrative offences were submitted to the court against 16 individuals, with losses estimated at 4, 226 UAH. The most devastating impact on the river was in the boundary of the Dobrivlyanska Village Council in the Zalishchytsk district where a private businessman V.D. Andrusyk extracted and sold more than 800 cubic metres of a sand and gravel, this being worth 160, 300 UAH. In order to stop him, the State Economic Inspectorate issued a temporary ban on the technology which Andrusyk had been using to get the gravel out of the Dniester. The material of the check has been passed to the Ternopil Inter-district environmental protection prosecutor. Criminal proceedings have been initiated under Article 240 of the Criminal Code.[45]. 

As one of the elements of a system for protection against flooding, in the 1980s the Dnistrovsky Hydro-Electric Unit consisting of two Hydro-Electric and Hydro-accumulating Electricity Plants was begun. This is presently reaching completion. The level of the protection during the July floods proved clearly inadequate. There remain, furthermore, a number of unanswered questions regarding the adequacy of the response of the administration of the Hydro-Electric Plan to changes in the flood regime on the Dniester. One can presume that from 23 – 27 July when the flow of water to the reservoir reached 5, 680 cubic metres per second[46], the discharge of water into the plant was insufficient, while from 27-28 July it was excessive. On 27 July a forced discharge of water with speed of 3, 500 м3/с was undertaken, as a result of which in 25 populated areas of the Vinnytsa region in the districts located below the hydro-electric power plant, 670 homes were flooded, with 3, 675 people having to be evacuated[47]. An area of the Dniester valley on Moldovan territory was also flooded. Unfortunately the figures from monitoring of the hydrological situation on the Dniester from sources of the Ministry for Environmental Protection, the Ministry for Emergencies and the State Committee on Water Management are at variance. From the site of the State Committee on Water Management one could not receive up-to-date information about the passage of the flood on 22-27 July. For some reason the first available report on the site is dated 29 July.[48]

There are many questions regarding the efficiency and quality of the rescue and restoration work in the disaster zone, as well as whether state money was used lawfully. Prosecutor’s checks have uncovered numerous cases of abuse, and 84 criminal investigations have been launched, with the losses from these reaching 16.5 million UAH. 127 protests have been lodged, 439 submissions and orders. More than 300 public officials have faced disciplinary or administrative proceedings.. 133 cases have been submitted to the court by Prosecutors to the sum of 1.6 million UAH. Furthermore, almost 30 million UAH in illegal payments from the State budget have been prevented.[49].

At the same time it should undoubtedly be recognized that the State demonstrated the wish to ensure observance of the constitutional right to compensation for environmental damage. During 2008 an unprecedented level of financial and other material assistance was provided to victims of natural disasters, and a huge number of social objects and new housing were built. Presidential decrees declared 44 administrative districts and 12 cities in six regions environmental emergency zones[50], and urgent measures were set out for overcoming the consequences of the natural disaster.[51] The Verkhovna Rada as an extraordinary measure made changes to the State Budget.[52]. On targeted subventions alone parliament directed more than 2 million UAH to the regional budgets of the regions which suffered for dealing with the results of the disaster. Pecuniary compensation was paid from the budget to victims whose homes had been destroyed or damaged (50 thousand and 15 thousand UAH, respectively), or where members of the family died (100 thousand UAH). Large-scale humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical supplies, closes, appliances etc was provided.

However there have been cases where the right to compensation for environmental damage has not been observed since the procedure in each specific case is not regulated by normative legal acts. These include the failure to provide compensation for loss of property during the disaster (entirely washed away plots of land in the village of Kuty, Ivano-Frankivsk region, and the death of a person in the village of Bila, the Ternopil region. With regard to this, the public advice centre of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) in Ternopil appealed on a number of occasions to the Prime Minister and the Human Rights Ombudsperson. Their letters spoke of the need to add the family of the person who died to the register of victims of the natural disaster in order to provide targeted pecuniary assistance, as well as to pass additional acts for regulating procedure for providing victims of the floods with compensation for the entire loss of plots of land.[53] Unfortunately neither the Government, nor the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat, has reacted in a proper manner to these appeals.

The authorities paid no heed to the proposals put by civic organizations regarding draft State strategy plans on anti-flood protection.[54] In the view of specialists from NGOs the main priority for strategy to minimize the risk of hydro-meteorological phenomena should be measures aimed at the gradual restoration of territories of river basins of their natural state. This means specifically the renewal of the regulating qualities of forest and swamp ecosystems, an end to infringements of environmental protection legislation, gradual removal of housing and objects of economic activity beyond the range of possible flooding, and so forth[55].

At the end of the year the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the «State targeted programme of comprehensive protection against flooding in the basins of the streams of the Dniester, Pruta and Sireta» which is clearly aimed in the first instance at the creation of huge hydraulic technical systems with dams, reservoirs, dry capacities, polders etc.[56] The predicted expenditure under the Programme come to over 31 billion UAH, including 28 billion from the State budget. The main administrator of the funding would be the State Committee for Water Management. At present nothing is known about public discussion, an economic assessment and State environmental impact assessment of this document at either the concept stage, or during the preparation of the final version of the programme. Given the large scale of the global economic crisis and the heightening political chaos in the country, the ability of the authorities to carry out and support such major projects would seem highly doubtful.

In October the Government approved new, stricter, rules for wood felling in the forests of the Carpathian Mountains, formulated on the basis of an ecosystem approach and principles of getting the forest back to its natural state. On the whole this document warrants a positive assessment, although some provisions do not comply with legislative norms, for example, the Law «On a moratorium on carrying out total tree felling on mountain slopes in the fir and beech forests of the Carpathian region».[57]

However it is worth noting that at the end of 2008, the immediacy of the problems linked with the reasons and consequences of the flood was reduced which can be explained by the deepening economic crisis, gas conflict with Russia and an exacerbation in the political confrontation within the country.

The catastrophic flood of 23-27 July undoubtedly exposed deep-rooted problems in existing environmental policy and the capability of the relevant State structures to cope with extreme tests. The lack of resolution of many problems with avoidance, adaptation, urgent response to extreme natural phenomena lead to catastrophic consequences and a colossal burden on the State budget. The present real threats demand that officials of bodies of power and the law enforcement agencies finally extract themselves from a vicious cycle of political competition and give real recognition to the priority of environmental safety, observance of environmental protection legislation and the broadening of criminal liability for its violation.

The Right of free access to environmental information

We have already mentioned the Ministry for Environmental Protection’s delays over many years in drawing up and publishing National Reports on the State of the Environment. This is obviously not due solely to the malicious intent of the Ministry to keep environmental information secret, although its unwillingness to carry out policy in accordance with modern principles of openness and freedom of information is quite evident. The problems go much deeper, with it being reasonable to mention the failings of State information policy in general, and the inefficiency of present methods of monitoring, collection, processing of environmental information within the State structure. Under such circumstances the Ministry for Environmental Protection simply lacks sufficient possibilities for giving an objective view of the state of the environment. The information needed is not monitored, and is often diffuse and not systematized.

Nonetheless we should point to isolated positive changes in the activity of the Ministry for Environmental Protection with regard to providing environmental information. Although the Ministry’s website remains a telling demonstration of disrespect for users, and a model of imperfection, there are certain cheering moments from the functional point of view. One can give as an example the fact that in 2008 the Ministry began publishing on its site monthly information and analytical overviews of the state of the environment. As of March 2009 there were overviews from January to November 2008.[58]. They present the results of monitoring of the state of the air, surface water, the geological milieu and radiation situation in different regions of the country.

At the end of 2008, besides the published draft «National Report on the State of the Environment for 2006», one could read on the Ministry’s website annual regional reports for 2007/[59]. These reports are prepared by State Departments for Environmental Protection in all regions and cities of State subordination.

One can also welcome the fact that the Ministry has fulfilled one of the requirements of the «Verkhovna Rada Resolution «On informing the public on issues which concern the environment» from 4 November 2004.[60] On the Ministry’s website during 2007-2008 there was information about the 100 worst polluters of the environment.[61].

On the other hand, we should point out that the above-mentioned Resolution imposes the duty to provide wide access to environmental information on the Cabinet of Ministers, the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, regional State administrations, bodies of local self-government and local executive bodies, the Kyiv and Sevastopol city State administrations. And this is understandable since after all the weaker in institutional and resource terms Ministry for Environmental Protection is capable of receiving and processing only a small part of environmental information which is held by State bodies. It is the Government and regional administrations who should demand the information from structures of MEP, the State Committee for Forestry, the State Committee for Water Management, the State Land Committee, the Hydro-Meteorological Service, the Ministry for Fuel and Energy, the Ministry for Agriculture, other ministries, departments, etc. Yet in official publications of the State authorities, no systematic provision of environmental information has yet been set up. With all the will in the world you won’t be able to find sections on environmental information on either the Government’s website or those of regional State administrations.

The requirement set out in the Resolution to create a network for nationwide computerised, information and analysis system for ensuring access to environmental information has yet to be implemented. This information network was supposed to be functioning back on 1 January 2005.

The Ministry for Environmental Protection is continuing to procrastinate with drawing up and publishing special reports on the state of the environment. Just as last year, the most current documents on the Ministry’s website remain the «Second National notification regarding issues of climate change» and the «Third National Report on Implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity» – in English.[62]. Both documents are for 2005, all others for 2001-2004.

As of the beginning of 2009, among special reports, the Ministry’s website contained the Report to the Second Meeting to the Party to the Convention in 2005. As for the Combined National Report for 2007 on Implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Ukraine to the Third Meeting of the Parties in Riga which aroused active criticism from the public, for some reason this disappeared without trace at the end of 2008 from the Ministry’s website.

The interested public will search in vain on the MEP website for traces of information about the sources of income and division of expenditure of the State Fund for the Protection of the Environment over recent years, as well as of regional and local funds.[63]. Several normative acts and general explanations of the conception of funds of environmental protection on the website are designed to create the illusion of information noise and camouflage the lack of specific information. The list of income for the State Budget in 2008 gives only the total amount extracted for polluting the environment which will clearly not add to the competence of the average citizen.

The Government and Ministry for Environmental Protection have for the last five years been breaking the Law «On Ukraine’s Red Book» by delaying the printing of a third edition. This in turn makes it possible for the State Committees on Forestry and on the Fishing Industry to issue permits for hunting or catching some creatures that should be in the Red Book.

Over recent years the Ministry for Environmental Protection has demonstrated consistence worthy of better application in producing orders which restrict access to a whole range of categories of environmental information by classifying it as confidential.[64]. In its unlawful drive to make information secret the Ministry cites the relevant Government Resolution[65], despite the fact that restrictions on access to information may only be imposed by law.

Civic organizations consider that classifying environmental information as confidential is in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution and laws[66], its international agreements and the practice limits the right of free access to environmental information. This applies in the first instance to restriction of access to «some opinions from the State environmental impact assessments».

The concept of environmental information contained in the Aarhus Convention and in the law «On the protection of the environment» includes «activity or measures, including those of an administrative nature, agreements in the field of the environment, policy that has impact or could impact upon elements of the environment». Environmental assessments in accordance with the Law «On environmental assessments» are a form of theoretical and practical activity assessing objects which may have an adverse impact on the environment. Information about such environmental assessments thus fully complies with the concept of environmental information. Among the main principles of environmental assessments as per the above mentioned law (Article 6) is openness. Article 11 of the law obliges environmental assessment bodies or formations, after finishing their assessment, to inform of their conclusions through the media. There is no mention in the law of any possible restrictions on the right of free access to the material of environmental assessments. Article 30 of the Law «On Information» prohibits the classification as confidential of information on statistics, the environment, banking operations, taxes and information whose concealment could place the life and health of people in jeopardy.

It is frustrating that following in the tracks of the Ministry, State Departments for the Protection of the Environment in many regions have passed analogous orders. This significantly complicates the procedure of access by the interested public to environmental information, for example, to the opinions of State environmental assessments.

For example the department in the Ternopil region passed its own List of pieces of confidential information, [67] which, among other things, restricts access to «some opinions of the State environmental assessment unit. In response to a proposal by the Head of EHO «Zeleny Svit» O. Stepanenko[68] to reconsider the content of the List, and bring it into line with legislation, the Department for the Protection of the Environment issued a stupid refusal, citing Article 7 of the Law «On State environmental assessment», according to which «military, defence and other objects, the information about which constitutes a State secret, are liable to environmental assessments. It is clear that the List, approved by the State Departments, due to the differences in legal regime between secret and confidentiality.

During 2008 the civic campaign to have the said Orders of the Ministry for Environment Protection revoked. Those who took place included the National Ecology Centre of Ukraine [NECU], EHO «Zeleny Svit», «The bureau of environmental investigations», «Ecology – People – Law», VEGO «Mama-86», the EBU «Zeleny Svit» and other organizations..

For example, NECU Deputy Head O. Vasylyuk sent the Ministry for Environmental Protection a detailed legal analysis of the reasons why most of the items of the Ministry’s notorious Orders are in breach of the Constitution, Ukraine’s domestic laws and the Aarhus Convention.[69]. The Deputy Leader of this authoritative environmental organization called for most of the items of the Ministry’s list to be brought into line with the Aarhus Convention and that the Ministry instruct its departments and offices in the regions to make their lists of items of information classified «For Official Use only» compliant with current legislation.

Despite numerous protests from civic organizations the Ministry for Environmental Protection has still not cancelled the illegal provisions in its Orders. At the present time Order №289 from 09 June 2008 On approving a List of items of confidential information which is given the stamp «For Official Use only» remains in force.

The Human Rights Ombudsperson, in breach of the law, has not published annual reports for 2006-2008. In the Fourth Report (2005) «On observance and protection of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine», [70] as usual, there was no section on observance of environmental rights.

The new management of the State Committee for the Forestry Industry has not succeeded in overcoming the traditional and highly indicative lack of openness in the department’s activities. Over many years this State Committee has failed to comply with the requirements in Articles 28 and 35 of Ukraine’s Forest Code, and n the Government Resolution[71], which orders it to systematically monitor and keep an official record of forests and a State Forest Cadastre. The State Committee is obliged to renew every five years the documentation of the State Forest Cadastre on the basis of the latest register of forests and publish material on the state of the forest fund. The last time such a record was taken was in 2001, and only of State forestry areas.[72] At present the State Committee’s official website cannot provide the information sought by the interested public with regards to results of monitoring of forests and the forest cadastre.[73].

There is virtually no information about the impact of different environmental factors on people’s health in official reports and analytical material of the Ministry of Health. The latter’s website is probably the poorest of all ministries and departments in terms of its information content. The information is not updated in proper fashion and draft normative acts are not regularly posted. The Ministry of Health Order on ensuring openness in its work[74] is of a formal nature and clearly fails to comply with modern principles for publishing information of public interest.

At the same time the State Committee on Nuclear Regulation, in our assessment, most consistently fulfils the requirements of the Aarhus Convention and the law «On the use of nuclear energy and radiation safety». It prepares annual reports, albeit somewhat belatedly, on the situation with nuclear and radiation safety. In 2008 the State Committee published a «Report on the situation with nuclear and radiation safety in Ukraine in 2007» in Ukrainian, Russian and English, sending this to the State authorities and bodies of local self-government. The said report appeared on the Committee’s official website on 30 January 2009.[75]

In implementation of the President’s Decree from 4 February 2003 № 76 the Ministry for Emergencies and the Protection of the Population from the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, together with the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, systematically prepares National Reports on the State of Manmade and Natural Safety in Ukraine. The Report for 2007 appeared on the Ministry for Emergencies website in 2008.[76].

The Ministry on Housing and the Municipal Economy, in fulfilment of Article 9 of the Law «On drinking water and drinking water supply», almost annually, although very belatedly, produces a «National Report on the quality of drinking water and the situation with the supply of drinking water». The last such report, for 2006, was placed on the Ministry’s website at the beginning of 2008.[77]

Thus some ministries demonstrate endeavours to maintain a certain level of access to environmental information. Obviously the organization of high quality work in the area of information requires sufficient resources and proper level of professionalism by employments of these authorities. However resources and staff are clearly not everything. Failure to observe the principle of free access to environmental information in the practice of some bodies of power can at the same time be a reflection of legal nihilism and dilution of the sense of public responsibility of their management, as well as pronounced corrupt interests of officials.

4. The Right of access to information on environmental matters

As promising innovations in legislation in the sphere of public participation we should mention the «Procedure for encouraging public assessment of the work of the authorities» passed by Government Resolution[78] and the draft «Regulations on an Electronic Register of data on public assessments and their results», submitted by the Cabinet of Ministers for discussion.

One must however acknowledge that over recent years there has been a noticeable trend towards reducing «environmental democracy». On the one hand, there is an ever more noticeable shift in public consciousness away from environmental awareness – in comparison with the first years after the Chernobyl Disaster. On the other – the authorities, bodies of local self-government and business structures more and more often and ever more flagrantly demonstrate disregard for public opinion and breaches of environmental legislation. This process has encompassed virtually all spheres from strategic decision-making by the top echelons of power on issues of development and preparation of draft laws, to clashes with public land in cities, villages, parks, reserves and resort areas, on land of the forest and water funds, being handed over for construction work. Activity of the environmental protection bodies is being deliberately hampered by the oligarch-corrupted authorities and businesses interested solely in getting rich quick, including at the expense of uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources.

Public debate over the construction work to complete the Tashlyk Hydro Accumulating Power Station

On 23 June 2008 public hearings were held in Mykolaiv over the environmental situation around the completion work in building the Tashlyk Hydro Accumulating Power Station [HAPS] and the raising of the level of the Aleksandrovsky Reservoir. Experts were present who had taken part in a public environmental assessment, specialists, representatives of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration and Regional Council, of the management of the State Department for Environmental Protection, the Southern Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant, and of civic environmental organizations of the Mykolaiv region.[79]. Members of the public and scientists cited a disturbing list of violations of environmental legislation in the process of planning and building the Tashly HAPS, which have caused irreparable damage to the places of historical and natural legacy within the landscape park «Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya» The participants in the hearings demanded that the conclusions of the State environmental assessment be taken into consideration in carrying out plans for developing the Southern Ukrainian Energy Union, that the protected status of the natural terrain of the Southern Bug Valley be strengthened, and that the creation of a national park «Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya» be accelerated. Unfortunately the Mykolaiv Regional State Department for the Protection of the Environment, as the organizer of the hearings, has still not been able to agree a resolution on its results.[80]

Public hearings on the planned construction of the Kaniv Hydro Accumulating Power Station

The Public hearings on the planned construction of the Kaniv Hydro Accumulating Power Station which took place on 27 November in the villages of Pshenychnyky and Hryshchentsi in the Kaniv district, instead of public discussion, proved to be a show address by the Head of the company «Ukrhydroenergo». Members of civic organizations were not given the chance to present facts refuting the claims of the energy industry representatives of economic benefit and environmental safety of the construction. «Energy industry representatives yet again promised the local population manna from Heaven, however the experience of Ukrhydroenergo’s work on the Dnistrovsky and Tashlyk hydro-accumulating power stations demonstrates the emptiness of such promises, - Viktor Melnychuk, NECU Director, recounts, - when we tried to present documented facts from other construction sites, we were rudely shut up with the words «Nobody’s interested in what you think».

«Hearings where only the point of view of those who commissioned the construction work is expressed are a fiction, Serhiy Fedorychyk, Head of the Information Centre of EVA «Zeleny Svit» is convinced. That unfortunately is already the established practice for «Ukrhydroenergo». You can only hide the fact that the project is economically unviable and environmentally unsafe if you don’t allow the facts confirming this to come out».[81]

 «Public participation» in drawing up draft laws

A languid and inconsistent process for modernizing legislation in the information sphere has been dragging on for several years. In 2007, the Ministry of Justice initiated discussion of a draft law «On amendments to the Law on Information». Numerous proposals from civic organizations were not taken into account in this process. EHO «Zeleny Svit» also sent a number of proposals from a group of organizations with regard to the section on environmental information which must clearly comply with the standards of the Aarhus Convention. We received no response from the Ministry.

In February 2008 the Ministry of Justice informed that it was winding down the process of making amendments to the existing law on drawing up a Concept Strategy for a new law «On information», as well as a new draft law «On access to public information». The Ministry did not respond to agreement to provide a candidate for a working group on preparing the draft law on access to public information. However for a certain amount of time, the Ministry’s website had another document «Concept for a draft Law of Ukraine «On access to public information». No information was provided on the procedure for its discussion and decision-making.

In the second half of the year the Ministry of Justice entirely wound up work on drawing up draft laws in the information sphere, or at least there was no longer any mention of this on the Ministry’s website, or that of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Public initiative to environmentalize the Football Championship «Euro-2012»

In an open letter sent in May 2008 from 35 organizations to the Government and National Agency for the Preparation and Holding of the football championship «Euro-2012», it was suggested that environmental priorities in planning and holding the championship be formulated. In the programme on «Euro-2012» approved by the Government, there isn’t a word about the environmental principles and environmental protection components to be observed when preparing for and holding the championship. However civic organizations consider that an environmentally responsible approach to the organization of the championship will make it possible to reduce expenditure on the use of energy, and eliminate the adverse impact linked with transport, lighting, utilization of waste and development of green recreation zones for up to, during and after the championship. .

Those who signed the open letter assured the Government of their willingness to cooperate in the process of preparation for the championship and that they could provide more detailed recommendations regarding implementation of the said proposals. . The «Letter of 35» was posted on the website of the Working Group of Nongovernmental environmental organizations on climate change and was open for signatures.[82] Unfortunately during the year there were no proposals from the Government on forms of cooperation with civic organizations.

The right of access to justice in environmental matters

We can cite several varied examples of successful court suits with the participation of representatives of environmental organizations.

·  On 6 May 2008 the Central District Court in Mykolaiv found unlawful the decision of the Mykolaiv Regional Council from 6 March 2007 on approving a scheme for the functional zoning of the territory of the regional landscape part «Kinburnzka kosa» and establishment of the boundaries of the villages of Pokrovka, Pokrovske, and Vasylivka. In October last year A. Halkina and O. Derkach lodged a suit calling for this decision to be revoked. The claimants were represented by lawyer from «Environment – People – Law» O. Melen. The claimants demonstrated during the court hearings that the Regional Council’s decision had no scientific justification, while at the same time it effectively broadens the boundaries of populated areas with this having a significant adverse impact on an area of the nature reserve fund. Over four hearings there was a comprehensive examination of the case after which the court ruled that in taking decision No. 9 from 16 March 2007 the Mykolaiv Regional Council had acted in breach of current legislation, in a manner not envisaged by any current legislation and had exceeded its authority.

·  There were several successful court cases through the year brought by the Kyiv Environmental and Cultural Centre [the Centre], together with the organization «Ecopravo-Kyiv». In November 2008 the Svytoshynsky District Court in Kyiv brought to an end the proceedings of the management of the State Committee of the Forest Industry against the leader of the Centre V. Boreiko. The latter had consistently exposed a State system for organizing hunting for foreign currency of bison in the «Red Book» which was flourishing within the State Committee for the Forest Industry and the Ministry for Environmental Protection. One of the main organizers of the illegal bison hunts was the head of the department on hunting of the State Committee for the Forest Industry M. Shabura. The court concluded that the facts published by V. Boreiko in the media were true and refused to order him to pay moral compensation of 10 thousand USD.[83]

·  Over the year several precedents were created for applying administrative court proceedings for observing environmental rights, protecting the interests of the media and organizations of civic society in Severodonetsk by the city organization of «Zeleny Svit». For example, an administrative suit was filed with the Severodonetsk City Court against the Severodonetsk City Council and its Mayor. «Zeleny Svit» asked the court to declare unlawful the refusal to allow representatives of the organization to see the General Plan of the City, and to order the respondents to remove the stamp «For Official Use only» of the Plan. A cassation appeal was also lodged against the rulings of the Kreminsk District Court and the Donetsk Administrative Court of Appeal over a claim lodged by «Zeleny svit» against the Kreminsk District Council and the Luhansk Regional State Department on Forestry and Hunting. That claim had asked the court to declare illegal the inactivity of the Council and State Department with regard to creating a National Nature Part «Seversk—Donetsky». «[84].

·  On 30 September 2008 a panel of judges of the Lviv Administrative Court of Appeal allowed the claim lodged by the Head of EHO «Zeleny Svit» O. Stepanenko in which the latter asked the court to declare unlawful the inactivity of the Ternopil Mayor R. Zastavny in not answering his formal request for information about the state of the environment in Ternopil. The Chortkiv District Court had previously handed down a ruling rejecting Mr. Stepanenko’s claim. He had asked the Court of Appeal to revoke the original ruling, to find the Mayor’s inaction unlawful and to order him to provide an answer to the substance of his information request. The court agreed that the Mayor of Ternopil had behaved unlawfully by not responding and ordered him to provide the information requested.[85].

We consider that given the deterioration in State environmental policy and pervasive corruption, the court system should be one of the few spheres where the public can openly resist violation of citizens’ environmental rights..

7. Cases of persecution for activities aimed at protecting the environment

The All-Ukrainian Civic Campaign in support of the Village Heads V. Marunyak, L. Lada and V. Dryhal.

Each of these people faced repression due to his uncompromising position against unlawful squandering of land in nature protection and recreation zones, for example, in the Dnipro Delta and on the Black Sea Coast which was carried out with the protection of corrupt officials of executive bodies and the Kherson Regional Prosecutor.

·  V. Marunyak, Village Head of Stara Zburyivka in the Holoprystansk district, despite repeated threats, over several years tried to counter land machinations on territory set aside for the creation of the National Nature Park «Nyzhnyodniprovsky» as wetlands of international significance «Dnipro Delta» (in accordance with Ukraine’s international commitments under the Ramsar Convention). On 14 March 2008 he was arrested on a trumped-up charge of taking bribes. Following an unprecedented public campaign in protest[86] he was released on 3 April, however the fabricated charges were not withdrawn. The court case is continuing at the present time. On 3 February a session of the Stara Zburyivka Village Council reinstated Mr Marunyak as Head. In July 2008 his fellow villagers created a «People’s Self-Defence Committee of Stara Zburyivka in order to protect the village community’s land in protest at the dismissal of V. Marunyak..[87]

·  The Village Head of Khorly in the Kalanchaksk district, Leonid Lada, who for a long time was opposed the privatization of 340 hectares of reserve land on the shore of the Black Sea, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment on a trumped-up charge of taking a bribe. An application over the case has been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.[88].

·  On 25 March 2008 the Head of the Volodymyrivska Village Council in the Skadovsk district Viktor Dryhal was detained by officers of the Department for Fighting Organized Crime. He was also charged under Article 268 § 2 of the Criminal Code – receiving a bribe. However the large number of circumstances in the arrest itself, the detective inquiry and the activities of Mr Dryhal as Head of the Village Council suggest something else – that the real reason for his detention and arrest was his opposition to unlawful privatization (and effective embezzlement) of land set aside for recreational purposes on the sea coast.[89].

8. Conclusions and recommendations

The main reasons for the deepening environmental crisis in Ukraine are undeveloped legal consciousness, total corruption and the low priority given to environmental policy as a component of State policy. One can see over recent times a progressive «de-environmentalizing» of State policy and public consciousness in general.

The higher echelons of power in Ukraine more and more often show signs of distancing themselves from environmental problems and issues of safety of vital functions. The lack of an effective system of State environmental policy is leading to pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources, the destruction of people’s environment and a wide-scale violation of the constitutional right to environmental safety.

10 years have passed since Ukraine adopted a strategic document intended to define the main directions of State policy in the field of environmental safety.[90] The time is ripe for a new Strategy of national environmental policy as one of the first priorities of the authorities. Such a strategy should take into consideration the state of crisis in economic policy and new aims based on the decisions of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002), Ukraine’s plans for integration with the EU, its commitments under international agreements and through its membership of the Council of Europe.

The issues of protection of the environment and sustainable (environmentally balanced) development should be viewed as one of the priorities for Ukraine’s European integration. The requirements for joining the European Union envisage implementation of a strategy of sustainable development, not merely at the level of documents, but in practice.

Most importantly, such strategy should be based on the need to stop the deepening environmental crisis, reduce the threat to people’s life and health, create mechanisms for public participation in the passing of decisions on environmental issues of public importance.


1). The President should issue a Decree «On urgent measures for increasing the priority of environmental policy» which establishes that environmental policy is one of the main priorities of Ukraine’s State policy, and give the relevant instructions to the Government on drawing up a draft long-term Strategy of national environmental policy;

2) The Cabinet of Ministers should:

– draw up a draft Strategy for integrating the provisions of the Aarhus Convention into national legislation, together with preparation of the relevant timeframes, practical mechanisms and procedure for bringing into force implementing legislation;

– include members of the public, bodies of local self-government, higher echelons of power and the law enforcement structures in a working group on implementing the decisions of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention;

– ensure implementation of Article 10 of the Law «On protection of the natural environment» with regard to creating a nationwide computerized system for ensuring access to environmental information.

3) The Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry for Environmental Protection should speed up preparation of draft laws complying with modern principles of freedom of information, including new versions of the Laws «On information», ««On protection of the natural environment», «On environmental assessments». «On ratification of an amendment to the text of the Aarhus Convention regarding public access to information regarding the release of genetically modified organisms», etc

4) The Ministry for Environmental Protection should:

– prepare, present for review by the Verkhovna Rada and publish «National Reports on the state of the environment in Ukraine» for 2007-2009;

– cancel unlawful normative acts regarding restriction of access to environmental information via the stamp «For Official Use Only», and make acts which had been classified public, for example, the opinions of State environmental assessments, provided by the Ministry of its regional departments;

– submit for the consideration of the Cabinet of Ministers draft Resolutions on access to environmental information and public participation in decision-making on environmental matters;

– prepare and present for review by the Verkhovna Rada drafts of amendments to legislative acts on broadening the sphere of application of criminal liability and strengthening administrative liability – for infringements of environmental legislation and people’s environmental rights;

5). The National Agency for Environmental Investment should enforce the provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol to this with regard to publishing registers of glasshouse gas emissions

6). The Human Rights Ombudsperson should have a section on environmental rights in the next Report.

[1] By Oleksandr Stepanenko, member of the UHHRU Board, Head of the Environmental and Humanitarian Organization [EHO] Zeleny Svit [Green World] and “Helsinki Initiative – XXI”

[2] In the section for annual reports

[3] “National Report on the State of the Environment in Ukraine in 2006”, p. 31

[4] Information and analytical reviews of the state of the environment, the Ministry for Environmental Protection

[5] Express issue of the State Committee of Statistics for 11.03.2009 №50 «Emissions of harmful substances and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from stationery sources of pollution in 2008” (according to preliminary data)

[6] Head of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine, V. Symonenko: “Programmes of Life are State programmes for preserving the environment in Ukraine” // “Holos Ukrainy” №146 (4396) 5.08.2008

[7] Opinion № 535 of the State Envirornmental Impact Assessment regarding TEO “Construction of a centralized storage facility for spent nuclear fuel” of VVER reactors on Ukraine’s nuclear power plants”. The Ministry for Environmental Protection,

[8] The draft plan for a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel was approved by Cabinet of Ministers Instruction No. 131 from 4.02.2009 “On approving the technical-economic justification for investments in construction of a centralized storage facility for for spent nuclear fuel” of VVER reactors on Ukraine’s nuclear power plants »

[9] Sites which are the worst polluters of the environment ,

[10] Information from the Prosecutor General of Ukraine “On the level of lawfulness in the country in 2008 (in accordance with Article 2 of the Law “On the prosecutor’s office”

[11] Draft decision ІІІ/6f on Compliance by Ukraine with its obligations under the Convention”

[12] Decision 2/5b «Compliance by Ukraine with its obligations under the Aarhus Convention, the Second Meeting of Parties, Almaty, 27.05.05 г.

[13] «Plan of strategic decisions of the Ministry for Environmental Protection on implementing the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention)” from 01.05.2008 р.

[14] Open appeal from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union on Ukraine’s failure to comply with the Aarhus Convention


[15] Cabinet of Ministers Instruction from 27.12.2008 № 1628- i,

[16] Letter from EHU “Zeleny Svit” to the Prime Minister Y. Tymoshenko, № 12-11 from 19 November 2008

[17] Presidential Decree № 658/2007 from 20. 07.07 «On bringing into force the Decision of the National Security and Defence Council from 15.06.2007 «On the state and problems of implementation by Ukraine of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”

[18] Cabinet of Ministers Instruction from 18.08.2005 № 346-i on approving a “National Action Plan on Implementing the Provisions of the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” .

[19] The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”, Ministry for Environmental Protection of Ukraine

[20] The case with climate change – infringements by the Ministry for Environmental Protection of legislation on information and on public participation. “Environment – People – Law”,

[21] Joint Implementation Projects. The Ministry for Environmental Protection

[22] National Report on the Cadastre of Emissions and Absorption of Greenhouse Gases in Ukraine for 1990-2006

[23] Ukraine signs up for the world’s first “Green Investment” // the Internet publication “Ukrainska pravda”, 19.03.2009

[24] International negotiations in Poznań, 1 – 12 December 2008. Working Group on Climate Change

[25] Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context, Report of the Committee on Implementation on the work of its fourteenth meeting. The UN Economic and Social Council, 20 February 2008

[26] Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a transboundary context News of the Ministry for Environmental Protection, 23.05.2008,

[27] Interaction with the public. Website of the Ministry for Environmental Protection

[28] Address by the Implementation Committee on the work of its fifteenth session which took place from 228-30 October 2008 in Geneva. UN Social and Economic Council, 4 December 2008

[29] Response from MEP to a formal information request from the Head of the EHU “Zeleny Svit”, O. Stepanenko, № 9845/12/10-08 from 28.07.2008

[30] Russian Federation signed the Espo Convention in 1991, but has still not ratified it

[31] Operative information from the State Committee of Statistics on the water economy, 29.07.08 .

[32] As a result of the natural disaster in Western Ukraine 31 people died – Minister for Emergencies V. Shandra, statement from the Minister for Emergencies


[34] Cabinet of Ministers Instruction from 20 August 2008 N 1156-i adopting a “Nationwide targeted programme for the development of civil defence from 2009-2013”

[35] “Ukraine’s forest industry: problems and prospects”, edited by Member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences I.R. Yukhnivsky – Interdepartmental Analytical and Consultative Council on the Development of Constructive Forces and Production Relations, Kyiv 2003.

[36] Concept framework for a State programme of ecological renewal of the Dniester, drawn up by the Ukrainian Scientific Research Institute of Environmental Issues of the Ministry for Environmental Protection (2004).

[37] Mykola Tymoshenko: “You won’t succeed in cornering me with red flags like on a hunt!” // Dzerkalo tyzhnya”, № 35 (714) 20 – 26 September 2008,

[38] Information from the Prosecutor General of Ukraine “On the level of lawfulness in the country in 2008 (in accordance with Article 2 of the Law “On the prosecutor’s office”

[39] According to information from the Ministry for Emergencies and the Protection of the Population from the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and from the Ukrainian Statistical Annual Report, Kyiv – 2006, pp. 538–551

[40] “The national disaster of 23-27 July in the Carpathian region” – Analytical report of the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Administration from 05.08.2008

[41] Presidential Instruction № 251/2008-I from 06.08.2008. “On studying the running of the forest industry in the Vinnytsa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Transcarpathian, Lviv, Ternopil and Chernivtsi regions”

[42] Response from the Prosecutor General’s Office from 05.12.2008 № 7/4-19272-08 to an information request from the Head of EHO “Zeleny Svit” O. Stepanenko

[43] Ibid.

[44] Summing up by the National Security and Defence Council from 19.08.2008 р.


[46] On the hydrological regime of water objects of Ukraine, drawn up in February and expected in March 2009. Ukraine’s Hydro-meteorological Service

[47] Operational Information from the State Committee of Ukraine on Water Management, 29.07.2008 р.,

[48] Ibid.

[49] In the regions which suffered from the flood, proceedings have been brought against public officials guilty of using financial and other material resources not as intended / Press Service of the Prosecutor General’s Office 09.09.2008.,

[50] Presidential decree from 28 July 2008 № 682/2008 “On declaring some areas of the Vinnytsa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Transcarpathian, Lviv, Ternopil and Chernivtsi regions environmental emergency zones”

[51] Presidential decree from 27 July 2008№ 678/2008 “On urgent measures to deal with the consequences of the natural disaster of 23-27 July 2008”

[52] The Law “On amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On the State Budget for 2008, and on amendments to some legislative acts” (Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada, 2008 N 36-37, p..278 )

[53] Legal assistance to victims of natural disasters not in the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s scope?

[54] “Concept for a State targeted comprehensive programme for protection against flooding in the Carpathian region from 2009-2015” and “Plans for comprehensive protection against flooding programme for protection against flooding in the Carpathian region in the basins of the streams of the Dniester, Pruta and Sireta”

[55] Disregard for the principles of sustainable development led to catastrophic consequences of the July 2008 flood. The position of the working group of nongovernmental organizations


[57] Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 22.10.2008 N 929 “On approving Rules for felling trees of main use in the Carpathian Mountain forests”.

[58] Information and analytical overviews of the state of the environment, . Ministry for Environmental Protection

[59] Regional reports on the state of the environment in 2007. Ministry for Environmental Protection,

[60] Verkhovna Rada Resolution “On informing the public on issues which concern the environment” N 2169-IV from 4 November 2004,

[61] The worst polluters of the environment

[62] Website of the Ministry for Environmental Protection,

[63] State Fund for the Protection of the Environment of the Ministry for Environmental Protection

[64] Ministry for Environmental Protection Order №361 from 19.09.2002 “On bringing into force a list of items of confidential information” №158 from 03.04.2006 “On amendments to the Ministry for Environmental Protection Order from 25.11.200 №470”, №540 from 12.12.2005, №159 from 28.03.2008 . “On approving a List of items of confidential information which is given the stamp “For Official Use only” № 231 On the ordering and systematization of data about confidential information” via which Order No. 159 was revoked, and Order No. 289 from 09.06.2008 On approving a List of items of confidential information which is given the stamp “For Official Use only” (current)

[65] Cabinet of Ministers Resolution №1893 from 27.11.1998 “On approving Instructions regarding the procedure for recording, retaining and using documents, cases, editions and other material carriers of information containing confidential information held by the State”

[66] The Ukrainian Constitution (Article 50); the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus Convention) (Article 4); the law “On protection of the environment” (Articles 25 and 25-1). All these guarantee each person the right to free access to environment information. This information according to the Constitution may not be made secret..

[67] Order of the State Department for the protection of the environment in the Ternopil region “On approving a list of pieces of information which is given the stamp “For Official Use only” » from 09.04.08 № 21

[68] Letter from O. Stepanenko do the Head of the State Department for the protection of the environmental in the Ternopil region

[69] NECU letter “On the work of the Working Group reviewing the Ministry for Environmental Protection’s Order from 09.06.2008 №289»

[70] “On observance and protection of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine – Report of the Human Rights Ombudsperson for 2004/2005 in Ukrainian

[71] Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 27 September 1995 N 767 “On approving procedure for keeping a State record of forests and a State Forest Cadastre.”

[72] [72] Head of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine, V. Symonenko: “Programmes of Life are State programmes for preserving the environment in Ukraine” // “Holos Ukrainy” №146 (4396) 5.08.2008

[73] State Committee for the Forestry Industry website, second on “Monitoring forests in Ukraine”

[74] “On ensuring openness in the work of the Ministry and informing Ukrainian citizens about its activities – Order № 320 from 29.06.2005,

[75] State Committee on Nuclear Regulation,

[76] National Report on the State of Manmade and Natural Safety in Ukraine in 2007, Ministry for Emergencies

[77] National Report on the quality of drinking water and the situation with water supplies in Ukraine in 2006, Ministry on Housing and the Municipal Economy

[78] Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 5 November 2008 N 976 “On approving Procedure for encouraging public assessment of the work of the authorities”,

[79] The public discussed the issue of completing construction of the Tashlyk HAPS: News of the Ministry for Environmental Protection, 25.06.2008 р.,

[80] Public hearings have taken place over the environmental situation which has eventuated as the result of the construction of the Tashlyk HAPS, News of the Mykolaiv Regional State Department for the Protection of the Environment і, 24.06.2008 р.,

[81] Energy industry officials are frightened of the truth. The National Ecological Centre of Ukraine. 1 December 2008.,

[82] Letter from environmental organizations,

[83] “Justice triumphs! Court case between killers and defenders of bison – the bison’s defenders have won!”

[84] Severodonetsk City Environmental Association “Zeleny Svit”


[86] Open appeal regarding the role of the Kherson Department for fighting organized crime in the theft of land near the Dnipro; “No” to the theft of the future Nyzhnyodniprovsk national nature part / support and defence of its defender – Viktor Marunyak

[87] The V. Marunyak case is supported by the UHHRU Fund of Strategic Litigations

[88] Electronic Mailing “Baibak” of the environmental group “Pechenigy” (# 384 from 15.03.09)

[89] Electronic Mailing “Baibak” of the environmental group “Pechenigy” (# 358 від 12.11.08)

[90] Verkhovna Rada Resolution “On the main directions for Ukraine’s State policy” in the field of environmental protection, the use of natural resources and ensuring of economic safety. From 5 March 1998 N 188/98-ВР (Bulletin of the Verkhovna Rada), 1998, N 38-39, p..248)

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