Foreign and Russian media drew attention to the largest illegal logging in the Russian Federation, which was carried out for many years in the Irkutsk region. The beneficiary of this activity was the deputy of the Irkutsk Legislative Assembly Yevgeny Bakurov, writes “New Newspaper”… In 2019 it was ranked 44th in rating the most affluent officials of Forbes magazine with an annual income of 365 million rubles. IKEA became the buyer of timber extracted by Bakurov’s companies.
Evgeny Bakurov is the founder of the Exportles group of companies, which harvests and sells the so-called “round timber” – untreated sawn tree trunks. Despite the fact that the volume of exports of such timber in Russia is falling, Bakurov’s business is only growing.
Yevgeny Bakurov’s companies are engaged in sanitary felling, which has reached a record scale in Russian history, according to the authors of the investigation conducted by the organization. Earthsight.
In theory, sanitary felling should affect only dead and diseased trees, but “in modern Russian realities, this is not profitable.” “In practice, over the past 20 years, sanitary forest felling in Russia is just a way of harvesting valuable timber in places where commercial felling is either prohibited or restricted, including in specially protected natural areas and in protective forests,” says a participant in the investigation. Earthsight Denis Smirnov.
According to him, in most cases, the purpose of sanitary felling is a way to get around the prohibitions. “Sanitary cuttings are a worsened version of industrial felling: for the latter, at least, the maximum cutting area is set – 50 hectares (when carrying out clearcuts. — Approx. “Novaya Gazeta”). Within the framework of sanitary felling, this area is not limited, ”he added.
The Irkutsk region accounts for about 12% of the timber harvested in Russia through felling over the past 10 years. In some years this figure reached 17%. That is, the Irkutsk region is a leader in such a large-scale deforestation.
Yevgeny Bakurov, took up sanitary felling back in the “zero” years. Having reached a peak of development in 2019, his companies, according to the authors of the investigation, have cut down about a third of the area of sanruboks in the region.
“Moreover, the contracts of his companies themselves with the Ministry of Forestry (it is also the Forestry Agency of the Irkutsk Region until June 2016. — Approx. “Novaya Gazeta”) on the lease of forest plots, they did not provide for sanitary felling at all in protective forests: they provided for the harvesting of less than 40 thousand cubic meters of wood, mainly during thinning. However, after the contracts were signed, a trick was carried out: additional agreements were signed that would allow cutting down hundreds of thousands of cubic meters in the course of sanitary felling, ”explains Denis Smirnov.
Under fourteen additional agreements, it was allowed to harvest over 700,000 cubic meters of timber in the protective forests.
In this scheme, the authors of the investigation see a lot of violations. In particular, in most cases known to them, sanitary cuttings were ordered without the necessary forest pathological examination. That is, forest pathologists did not go into the forest, did not determine the condition of the trees, did not determine the boundaries of damaged or diseased areas, did not give a conclusion about whether sanitary felling was necessary there.
“The most important thing is that when we arrived at the plots and examined them, it turned out that the forest did not need sanitary felling. It was a normal healthy forest without any significant amount of weakened and dying trees, ”Denis Smirnov emphasized.
In one case, the acts of forest pathological examination were nevertheless made, but without leaving the office: the former head of the Ust-Udinsky forestry, Yuri Titov, was sentenced for this to 4.5 years in prison. He falsified the acts of forest pathological examination, according to which the forests were allegedly affected by fungal diseases and stem rot and needed clear sanitary felling on an area of 120 hectares. On the basis of these acts, one of Bakurov’s companies – DipForest LLC – cut down 83 hectares of forest. After the fact, the survey, officially conducted by specialists, showed that there were no grounds for sanitary felling.
“The damage estimated at 13 million rubles, in my opinion, looks underestimated. For comparison, the damage from illegal sanitary felling in the 120-hectare Tukolon reserve amounted to 748 million rubles, ”explained Denis Smirnov.
The loggers did not bear any responsibility. The supervisory authorities challenged the decisions on illegal logging not immediately after their adoption, but two or three years later, and during this time the companies managed to “master” a larger, and most often the entire volume of sanitary felling.
“It looks rather like a game between supervisors and lumberjacks. Some had to procure wood, and they procured it. Others needed to be shown that they exercise supervision, and formally they showed this – they won lawsuits and issued press releases on the fight against fraudulent forest use, ”says Smirnov.
In total, from 2009 to 2020, Bakurov’s companies cut down about 15 thousand hectares of forest, which is more than the territory of the Losiny Ostrov National Park. “Moreover, we found clearcuts with an area of 200-300 hectares. It looks especially cynical to carry out clear cuttings in water protection zones along the coast of the Bratsk reservoir, where the stand was cut down completely to the border of the treeless strip of the coast, – Denis Smirnov emphasized. – According to our estimates, about 2 million cubic meters of timber could have been illegally harvested during these fellings. It is impossible to make an accurate estimate of the amount of damage now, but it is clear that it is tens of billions of rubles. “
The timber extracted by Bakurov was supplied not only to China, but also to the domestic market. Three complex supply chains that were studied by the authors of the investigation led to the world’s largest retailer – IKEA. According to Bakurov himself, on the Chinese side, the primary processing of round timber was carried out, after which the wood was supplied to IKEA supply factories located in Shandong province near the city of Qingdao. From there, the products were distributed worldwide through the IKEA chain of stores.
“When we found this company among the buyers, we were very surprised,” says Smirnov. – Because IKEA is a world leader in promoting responsible forest management. And, it seems, when buying her products, you have to be sure that you are buying something from responsibly harvested wood. “
On June 15, an IKEA spokesperson responded to Earthsight’s inquiry. The company, on the one hand, did not recognize the purchase of illegal timber, on the other hand, it reported that for several months it itself had been analyzing supplies from Siberia and came to a decision to stop purchasing from there. IKEA did not answer clarifying questions – when exactly the company stopped purchasing, which became the basis for such a decision.
Evgeny Bakurov was born on June 22, 1977 in the village of Kornilovo, Uzhursky District, Krasnoyarsk Territory. He graduated from high school in Severobaikalsk. In 1999 he received a diploma from the Irkutsk Institute of Railway Engineers with a degree in organization of transportation and management of railway transport.
According to SPARK-Interfax, Bakurov is the only member of nine limited liability companies that occupy a prominent position in the timber industry sector of the Irkutsk region, including Angri LLC, Vilis LLC, Vertical-B LLC, and others. six of them are CEOs.
Among other things, Evgeny Bakurov heads the Association of Loggers and Forest Exporters of the Irkutsk Region (the association mainly includes persons controlled by Mr. Bakurov) and has the status of an individual entrepreneur. He has been a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Irkutsk Region since 2018, and represents the Civic Platform party.
Over the past five years, the net profit of Bakurov’s companies amounted to 86,404,000 rubles, of which 56,274,000 – in 2020.
The deputy financed the election campaign of the current governor of the Irkutsk region Igor Kobzev. how reported “Important stories” connected with Bakurov enterprises “Angri”, “Exportles” and “Capel” transferred 12 million rubles to the electoral fund.