Zelensky recommends local law enforcement chiefs in Zhytomyr region step down over illegal amber mining
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has recommended that heads of the Main Department of the National Police and the SBU Security Service's Directorate in Zhytomyr region tender resignations over illegal amber mining.
"I don't believe you, I'll talk to [your] chief, and I also highly recommend you step down. I'll talk to Mr. Avakov [Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov] and Mr. Knyazev [National Police Chief Serhiy Knyazev] ... I don't believe you, because over four years you say that you have put an end to [illegal mining of amber in the region], but we have economic conclusions: to what did you put an end here, who has ended it? (...) Maybe you ... weren't part of the scheme, but you were unable to do anything about 'amber piracy' in Zhytomyr region," Zelensky told the head of the Main Department of the National Police in Zhytomyr region during a visit to the region on Monday.
Addressing the head of the SBU Security Service's Directorate in Zhytomyr region, the Ukrainian president also mentioned the SBU's involvement in illegal amber mining.
"Do you know that the Security Service of Ukraine is also part of this scheme? ... How do they work with amber if not using the scheme, how? ... We will replace the head of the Security Service of Zhytomyr region. I would like Mr. Ivan Bakanov [acting SBU chief] to consider another candidate," Zelensky said.
He also proposed that Knyazev dismiss the heads of the district departments of the National Police in Olevsk and Ovruch districts in the region.
"This scheme includes both the National Police, the Security Service of Ukraine, and others. As I understand it, if we are talking about Zhytomyr region, these are Olevsk and Ovruch districts... I'm asking you to dismiss the heads of the police departments in the districts," Zelensky said, referring to the National Police chief.
According to the president, the problem of illegal amber production in Ukraine "has become an environmental disaster."
"Indeed, thousands of hectares of forests turned into a desert ... Today we flew around and saw it all. We understand that people hunt for amber there, we understand that this is a real war, I can't describe this in other words – [it's] a war waged by criminal authorities covered by the police, the SBU, and the prosecutor's office against the state," Zelensky said.
He also proposed the head of the regional department of forestry and hunting resign.
"We will begin to work on all names in those three regions [Volyn, Rivne and Zhytomyr regions], so that they collect their belongings and change the address of their residence, change their country," the president said.