At the beginning of Russia’s annexation of Crimea our ecologists warned about the danger that the peninsula’s natural reserves might face. There are 183 of them there, and their total area makes up a third of Ukraine’s natural reserve funds. Environmentalists stated that not all of them might preserve their status of a national park or a sanctuary when their reordering takes place. Back then we asked representatives of some Crimean reserves how they would work, which legislation they would adhere to, but we were assured everything was alright and there were no threats of status deprivation.
Now the situation is entirely different. Thanks to cooperation with Russian colleagues, our experts received a chance to read a letter of the self-proclaimed leader of Crimea Serhii Aksionov to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation. It says that Crimea will decide the fate of natural reserves at its own discretion and does not intend to hand them over to Russia’s control, because they are Crimea’s hallmark, and local authorities will take care of them single-handedly, since they are their property only and nobody else’s. And an inspection of all sites is planned soon, with a new list of natural reserves to be made based upon its results. The letter does not explain who will carry out this inspection. Nor does it mention the reasons why it will be done.
“Crimea in Aksionov’s hands is a bad scenario for nature, because it was him who stole and split 700 hectares of Yalta natural reserve for residential construction. He was the initiator of laying pipelines through other reserves, he tried to build a hotel in Karadah natural reserve. All this happened long before the annexation of the peninsula. But if before his hands were at least partially tied, now he is free to do as he pleases. And such a statement by the self-proclaimed head of Crimea is an almost official declaration of an intention to lift the natural reserve status from a part of protected territories and turn them into development projects,” said deputy head of the National Ecological Center of Ukraine Oleksii Vasyliuk commenting on the situation.
But the worst is that our Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources or even the National Academy of Sciences, which also has some national reserves in its subordination, cannot do a thing to prevent this criminal activity. Vasyliuk says that if Crimea’s “government” does not want to listen to its Russian “bosses,” they will be even less eager to listen to the Ukrainian officials. Besides, our ministry does not have the authority to influence the situation. “Today’s circumstances are the following: now a part of Crimean reserves is subordinate to the Russian State Committee on Forest Management, but the majority of the administration does not want to be part of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, they want to remain independent. We are trying to maintain contact with colleagues from Russia to know what is going on and to react to it in some way,” the environmentalist says.