Persecution of Yehor Firsov

UKRAINE/ 2016 - now
Yehor Firsov
Yehor Firsov´s FB account

“Fear has no chance! Don’t use your power for empty thoughts which generate fear. When fear stands in your way, you will never discover that you fear something what is not there.” Yegor Firsov wrote this on his Facebook account in spring 2022.

Yehor Firsov is an environmental activist and a political figure in Ukraine. A lawyer by profession, Firsov became politically active even before graduation. After Majdan, in which he took an active part, he became the youngest member of the parliament as a part of the Petro Poroshenko Block (PPB) [1] at the age of 25. During his time in the parliament (two years), he participated in the writing of 24 draft laws and submitted 48 amendments to two draft laws.

“If you have been raising these issues for a year, but none of them is answered, then there is no point in staying. My exit was a kind of protest: the position of the parliamentary faction is wrong, so Iʼm leaving. I understood that they would take my mandate, I understood that a tough legal campaign would be launched against me,” said Firsov in an interview for Gromadskij, March 2016 [2]

Firsov’s mandate was not a long one. In February 2016, he left the Petro Poroshenko Block. As his reasons for leaving the party, he declared that he did not want to represent a party that is involved in corrupt activities [3].

In November 2019, Firsov was appointed as the Acting Chairman of the State Ecological Inspectorate of Ukraine. Several days after his appointment, he made an announcement via social media in which he pointed out not only the environmental problems, but, also, administrative ones [5], of which corruption, overemployment, a decentralised system, and no data regarding the possible polluters and transparency [5] were the biggest ones. 

Firsov started his mandate by “cleaning the house” and fired most of the officials at the State Ecological Inspectorate because of corruption. Afterwards, Firsov stated that the ecological inspection service had been one of the country’s most corrupt agencies before he took over. He also said that the state ecological inspectors had consulting businesses that profited from their cooperation with the agency and that some government officials were profiteering from the graft schemes at the agency [6]. He initiated criminal cases against ecological inspectors in the Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa oblasts and proceeded to penalise a large number of enterprises, mostly owned by oligarchs, which flouted the environmental policies, laws, and codes.  The amount of funds collected through fines doubled. As a lobbyist for a healthier environment, Firsov proposed legislation that would increase the fines for environmental polluters and ensure compliance with the environmental laws. 

Throughout his period of tenure, Firsov endured a lot of political pressure and threats. He stated that the people who had tried to influence him included members of parliament from different factions, lawmakers’ aides, and government officials [6]. 

Firsov’s car got burned in a car park in March 2020 as a message to stop doing what he was doing [6].

“Friends, some unknown people burned my car just in front of my house. It is irreversibly damaged. I am in contact with the police,” wrote Firsov on Facebook on March 12, 2020.
And already on March 13, 2020 he was fired without any explanation or any reason being given, according to Firsov. And his dismissal took place in silence, and although it must have been done by the government, it happened without him even knowing it. He was never provided with the reasons for the decision [1] and the Presidentʼs office refused to comment on the reasons behind his firing [6]. Firsov attributes his dismissal to the resistance of powerful vested interests to his work. Specifically, he had fired most regional top officials at his agency and increased fines for oligarch-owned businesses that pollute the environment [6]. 

The decision to fire Yehor Firsov without an official explanation is a breach of the law. Under Ukrainian law, the officials need to provide a valid reason for terminating a civil servant’s contract, which is regulated by the Law “On Civil Service”. The person in this situation also needs to be provided with a written notice of termination that explains the reason for the termination and the relevant legal basis. The government owes an explanation to the public for this or any other kind of decision. Transparency is the best and safest tool of democracy to guarantee a just and equal society with no corruption. 

The level of corruption in Ukrainian society which could be observed through this text is alarming. The institutions are obviously weak and don’t have either the interest or the capacity to battle this phenomenon. 

It is also important to state that on August 14, 2014, a moratorium on state inspections, including environmental inspections, was introduced. The moratorium was introduced with the purpose of boosting the economy and entrepreneurship, which was harmed by the political instability and the war in the east of the country [7]. Leaving space for industry and other polluters (environmental and otherwise) to perform their activities unchecked had a deep impact on the state of the environment, society, economy, and human health and wellbeing. The moratorium surely contributed to Ukraine being one of the most polluted countries in Europe [8]. The moratorium ended on January 1, 2019 [7], ten months before Firsov’s appointment as head of the state environmental inspectorate. Regardless of the ending of the moratorium, the goal of the businesses remained the same, to maximise the profit, no matter what the cost. That position is being leveraged through corrupt officials and policy makers. 

“Fear is something which we have to see like a phantom; it is nothing in fact,” wrote Yegor Firsov on Facebook in spring 2022.

And he proved this in his public life. He had a reform plan for the State Ecological Inspection and he had to resist pressure from oligarchs and politicians, and therefore he had to find strength in himself. He did not want to give way to anyone and he became inconvenient for many people.

But his belief in good remains. He wants to work for the good of his country in any place and at any time. When Russia invaded Ukraine, he joined the territorial defence forces.


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RU 18/10/2016 Firsov leaves the PPB party

RU 28/02/2016 Firsov and Tomenko were left without mandates

UKR 24/11/2019 Yehor Firsov – Ecoinspection. Start.

ENG 22/05/2020 Ukraine’s top ecology inspector becomes latest victim of drive to oust reformers

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