WWF DECLAIMS AGAINST THE REFUSAL OF THE MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF ZHELEZNOVODSK TO INITIATE A CRIMINAL CASE FOR LOGGING WITH DAMAGE OF ALMOST 78 MILLION RUBLES
The story of the Beshtaugorskiy Sanctuary and its protection began at the end of 2020. The local authorities decided to build a cycle track on this protected area and began to cut down trees. WWF-Russia supported local residents who asked for help in protecting a unique natural territory. By joint efforts, it was possible to achieve a judgment for the cancellation of Resolution on the seizure of land on the territory of the protected areas, the tender for construction was canceled, and the project was reported out.
Since the logging does not stop, WWF-Russia sent an appeal to the Public Prosecution Office of Stavropol region. This appeal was brought to the Environmental Prosecution Office, which recorded violations and sent the case to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Zheleznovodsk for verification and decision termination.
What did the police of Zheleznovodsk reply?
Law enforcement officers of Zheleznovodsk conducted an inspection, the result of which was Order to dismiss criminal case written on 7 sheets of paper. The main essence of the document is that the police don’t see the subject and the composition of the crime, and the presence of 151 stumps of vigorous trees, which the Public Prosecution Office recorded on the territory of the Beshtaugorskiy Sanctuary, is explained by measures to clean the Resort Park after the icing of trees in December 2020.
WWF-Russia strongly disagrees with this answer.
What is wrong with the reply?
There are a number of reasons why the refusal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Zheleznovodsk cannot be called objective and justified:
- Despite the fact that the Public Prosecution Office counted 151 hard-wooded broadleaved trees, which is an indirect sign of particularly large damage. For some reason the Ministry of Internal Affairs didn’t conduct an inquiry under part 3 of Article 260 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation but part 1 of Article 260 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
- The investigator concluded that there was no target of crime, perhaps even without going to the scene of the incident. Although the stumps from the cut trees would be seen by any person visited the site.
- According to the protocol of the investigator, the administration said that they did NOT clear the trees from logjams and cut down trees on the site that the Public Prosecution Office examined, and that they do NOT know who and when this cutting had carried out. However, the investigator, on the basis of these data, makes a conclusion about the absence of the target of the crime.
- In its letter, the Environmental Prosecution Office informs that the logging was carried out without a preliminary survey and without issuing appropriate permits. Which, in accordance with the Resolution No. 21 of Plenum of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of October 18, 2012, was qualified as "illegal logging".
- The decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Zheleznovodsk "lost" the fact that during the survey of the site, the Environmental Prosecution Office, had revealed the fact of the wood export, and the car on which the tree was exported was seized for further inspection.
What did WWF do?
On March 28, 2021, the staff of WWF together with volunteers went to the site, counted, measured the diameters, and recorded the location of stumps and felled trees in the protected area.
"Based on the data obtained, we’ve calculated the volume of felled trees and made a preliminary calculation of the damage, - says Elena Cherkasova, Senior Coordinator of Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia. – As a result, 359 felled trees were recorded, 330 of them are vigorous. The total volume was 292.97 cubic meters. The preliminary amount of damage caused was 77,879,310 rubles (more than 1 million US dollars). All calculations were carried out by us in accordance with the existing regulatory legal acts* (the asterisk refers to the footnote) regulating the calculations of the volumes and damages of logging."
WWF-Russia has at its disposal the coordinates of all the felled trees, as well as photos of stumps, which can be transferred to law enforcement agencies when requested.
What will be next?
WWF-Russia has sent a protest on this refusal to the Public Prosecution Office of Stavropol region and to the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for Stavropol region. It hopes for conducting a trial by law enforcement agencies and a thorough investigation of this case, taking into account all the circumstances and in accordance with the identified damage.
* The volume was calculated on the program "Avers MDO lesosek #5" (*MDO as for Microcredit Deposit Organization) using Tables for accounting for the cutting stock of the main forest forming species of the North Caucasus. The damage was calculated in accordance with the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 1730 of December 29, 2018 on " Due to violations of forest legislation, approval of the specifics of compensation for damage caused to forests and nature-made objects located there (as amended on December 18, 2020) and the rates of payment per unit of forest resources approved by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of May 22, 2007. No. 310 on "The rates of payment for a unit of the volume of forest resources and the rates of payment for a unit of the area of a forest plot that is in federal ownership" (with amendments and additions as of January 06, 2020).