In August 2016, the district administration became aware that at Tarutynska steppe according to farmers point of view, to fight the weeds applying desiccation: continuously processing by herbicide, took place.Drastic destruction of a unique wilderness in Ukraine

After the burning of the steppe vegetation as a site preparation for plowing up was done. In connection with this administration of Tarutynska district appealed to the Department of Ecology of the Odessa regional administration with a request to stop the illegal operation. However, the Department of Environment and Regional Environmental Inspectorate of the district administration ignored the request and destruction of the steppe was continued.

Before the steppe plow, the representatives of the Ministry of Defence appealed to the representatives of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the Odessa region to conduct a survey, collection and destruction of missiles that were left on the former firing range from different periods of the exercise. It is not known how many shells and bombs were collected. However, the disposal of shells, by their explosion in the center of reserve is an outrage of the Law of Ukraine “About the nature reserve fund.” So far to nobody stood trial for the damage in the protected area in connection with the explosion.

According to the map, showing the state plowing of the steppe territory on November 4, 2016, 1300 hectares of the reserve are already plowed and about 1300 hectares are preparing for the plowing.

It is also important, that the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine wants to get back the ex-polygon area not for carrying out military exercises there, they want to benefit from the commercial exploitation of agricultural land.

Anyway, in spite of the personal view of the management of the Ministry of Defence, the reserve “Tarutinsky steppe” is the object of the natural reserve fund of Ukraine and is protected by acting law. Its damage entails liability under Art. 252 of the Criminal Code. According to preliminary estimates, the amount losses from plowing of steppe has already reached at least 1 billion dollars.

It should be noted, that the work on plowing of unique steppe were conducted with a heightened tempo, machines worked day and night. However, on the night from 3 to 4 of November and 7th  of  November, the illegal works of plowing of the Tarutinsky steppes were physically stopped with the help of the state protection team of the national natural park “Tuzlovski limany”. They were stopped only by blocking the machines under the guidance of the chief naturalist of the National Nature Park ” Tuzlovski limany “, a famous ecologist in Ukraine, Irina Vykhristyuk. At the risk of her health, she tried to stop the powerful John Deere tractor. As a result, she was completely drown with diesel fuel, and got bruises.

In November 11, 2016 the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources appealed to the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, demanding an immediate finalization of the destruction of Tarutinsky steppe. But, if the Ministry of Defence will not hear the Ministry of Ecology, then activists of the National Nature Park ” Tuzlovski limany ” will go for the fight again!

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Iryna Shchoka is a regional development expert and is based in Uzhhorod, Ukraine.

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