war crimes in Ukraine

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Court battle with the Prosecutor General over “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya”

An important victory in the drawn-out conflict between the regional landscape park “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya” and the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom

On 9 November 2009 an appeal court hearing was heard in the case of the environmental organization “Environment, People, Law” [EPL] v. the Prosecutor General’s Office. The court found that the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office in examining the complaint lodged by EPL in the campaign regarding the reserve “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya” had been unlawful.

This victory is an important part of a drawn-out battle over several years, concerning conflict between the regional landscape park “Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya” and the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom which is adding to the Tashlyk Hydro Accumulating Power Station on the Southern Bug River. The civic campaign in defence of Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya is one of the most forceful in Ukraine, concerning a crucial part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage. The park was created in 1994 and in subsequent years expanded many times. In 2009 on the territory of Pobuzhya Ukraine’s first steppe national nature park “Bug Hard” was created, while in 2008, as reported here, Granite-Steppe Pobuzhya was voted one of Ukraine’s seven natural wonders.

On 6 July 2006 the Mykolaiv Regional Council adopted the decision to remove 27.72 hectares from the regional landscape park and hand it over to Energoatom. The latter wants to make this area the tail end of the Alexandrovsky Reservoir, this meaning that a substantial area of what should be national reserve land will be flooded.

Back in 2006 EPL appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] claiming that the Resolution was unlawful since the Government’s decision was taken with infringement of the procedure for agreeing such land issues and the Land Code. However PGO reacted as in most cases by denying the issue, claiming that there had been no violations. In response to this EPL turned to the court asking that the PGO’s actions be declared unlawful and that PGO be ordered to carry out a proper examination of the complaint. Since that time the legitimacy of EPL’s demands has been twice confirmed by first instance courts – in 2007 and 2008, and yet PGO has in every way ducked acknowledging its guilt, dragged out the case and appealed to higher courts.

The appeal court’s ruling can be considered an important victory for the park, and the Prosecutor General’s Office should now carrying out a check into the lawfulness of the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution on the provision of land.  In the best instance the Prosecutor General can appeal against the Resolution however 27 hectares of the landscape park have already been flooded by the Alexandrovsky Reservoir of the Tashlyk Hydro Accumulating Power Station. Nonetheless, if the flooding is stopped, the natural areas around the shores could be renewed before too long.

The court of appeal’s ruling is an important precedent for eradicating formalism and negligence in examining appeals by Ukrainian Prosecutors and vividly demonstrates that even the Prosecutor General can infringe laws which it observes observance of.

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