Fighting for environmental safety proved to be a deadly business in Ukraine


On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, environmentalist Vladimir Goncharenko, founder, and leader of the Movement for Citizens’ Right to Environmental Safety in Dnepropetrovsk was brutally beaten by unknown assailants while on the way to his 'dacha'. He died two days later in intensive care. His colleagues, relatives, and friends are absolutely certain that the murder was directly linked to Goncharenko’s last investigation. Eight years after the incident, the assailants are still unknown.

Vladimir Goncharenko was a well-known figure in Ukraine, the publisher of the ECO Safety newspaper, a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Engineering Sciences, and a member of the International Academy of Sciences of Ecology and Safety of Humans and Nature. According to his colleagues, he had received numerous anonymous threats.

At a press conference on July 27, 2012, he spoke about the illegal storage and transportation of three heat exchangers, with a total weight of 180 tons which were contaminated with hexachlorobenzene – a polytropic poison prohibited under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for negative impact on humans and animals. It primarily damages the liver and kidneys and has a negative effect on the thyroid gland as well. Repeated exposure to hexachlorobenzene may cause nervous system damage, irritability, skin hypersensitivity, muscle weakness, loss of coordination during movement and walking.

Having conducted his own investigation, Goncharenko found that the Ukr-EURO Company had attempted several times to transport the dangerous cargo under the guise of scrap metal, and without a special permit, to Ukrainian metallurgical plants.  The environmentalist notified the supervisory authorities of the violations he found, but they did not show much interest. It is also worth noting that after Goncharenko’s death, neither the local nor the central authorities offered any comment. Indeed, according to the official version, his death was not linked to his environmental activism but resulted from a conflict between drivers on the road.

“The greatest enemies of ecology are the indifference, incompetence, and sometimes criminal inaction of our officials responsible for ensuring a safe environment for human life and health,”

Goncharenko once said.

Years after Goncharenko’s murder, there has been virtually no progress either in the investigation or in addressing the environmental problems he revealed. No information is available on the identities of either the hitmen or the masterminds behind the killing.

For his outstanding contribution to Ukraine’s environmental movement, Goncharenko was posthumously awarded the Creator of the Planet Order from the International Academy of Sciences of Ecology and Safety of Humans and Nature.

From informations provided in the report 'Dangerous work: Increasing pressure on environmental NGOs and activists in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the U.S.' prepared by Crude Accountability – Ecoforum of NGOs Kazakhstan, 2017