Sergei Levchenko in the Pravda newspaper on the need to save Lake Baikal

Levchenko Sergei Georgievich

Member of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, First Secretary of the Irkutsk Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, former Governor of the Irkutsk Region.


Member of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, First Secretary of the Irkutsk Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, former Governor of the Irkutsk Region.

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Why did it happen that completely obvious negative events caused such rejection of the deputies by the “ruling party”? Sergey LEVCHENKO, one of the authors of the work, answered this and a number of other questions.

– Sergey Georgievich, what is the particular urgency of the problem of environmental protection on Russian soil that you and your colleagues have raised now? As far as we know, not so long ago, when you were head of the Irkutsk region, in the example of your region, the tasks of protection of forests from illegal logging, as well as the preservation of Lake Baikal, began to be solved quite successfully. What happened just a few years after you left the post of governor?

– First, I will give a complete answer to the question and then we will move on to the details. The bottom line is that the current authorities in Russia are not in a position to tackle a single serious problem across their spectrum: from ecology to economics. This is why every request or initiative of the Duma is perceived by the representatives of this government painfully and sometimes with fear.

Let’s move on to the specifics of our project. In 1996, at the request of Russia, Baikal and 10 other objects were included in the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List. In addition, Baikal has become the most famous in the world. Over the years, however, serious claims against Russia have begun to accumulate on the part of UNESCO: the ecological condition of Lake Baikal has become a growing concern on the international stage. Finally, in 2021 our country adopted a special state program for the protection of Lake Baikal, estimated until 2018. During this period, it is supposed to solve all the environmental problems of the Siberian pearl.

However, he was not there. Having assumed the position of governor of the Irkutsk region, in 2015 I noticed that practically nothing has been done and is not being done within the framework of the mentioned program. Surprisingly, even the 56 billion rubles allocated “for Baikal” under this state program were not used! I then decided to apply directly to the President of the country with a request to transfer the management right of this federal program to our region. At first he was surprised: they say, how is it, will the region be able to cope with the federal program? However, having become familiar with our plans and calculations, in the end it gave the green light. And the work began to boil: the area attracted the state-owned company Rosgeologia to cooperate, which not only assessed the number of harmful dumping operations on the shores of Lake Baikal in its waters, but also prepared a draft of them, initially minimizing them in then stopping them completely.

But, unfortunately, this company did not manage to work with us for a long time. At the suggestion of the federal center, various kinds of competitive leaps were started, in which the main thing was lost – the goal of all this work. And soon there was a change of government in the region: instead of me, United Russia Igor Kompzev was appointed governor, who later became governor of the region. Surprisingly, on arrival, all activity in this direction stopped completely. As well as the work successfully carried out in the last two years of my tenure as governor to save the forest from predatory logging. We organized its crushing, which immediately halved the looting of the area’s forest resources in just one year. And next year – another twenty percent. The forest – one of the main treasures of the Irkutsk region – was on its way to salvation …

– Nevertheless, the “United Russia” in the recent “plenary” essentially blocked your initiative, although in this case we are talking about the execution of the President’s orders! Is not such a position, among other things, an attempt to “cover up” the party governor? After all, it was under him that all your operations in the Irkutsk region were forgotten.

– We consider the results of Governor Kobzev’s work in the Irkutsk region a failure. This is a person who is more afraid than anyone else of taking responsibility. For a start, he abandoned our regional program to rescue Baikal, “returning” it to federal jurisdiction. Work to preserve the region’s forest resources has been completely reduced, but here everything is simpler: the “balance of interests” of the authorities and the so-called forest mafia are maintained. To feed both wolves and sheep safely, that is, to be good for all parties involved “in the process”. Is not this proof of the incompetence of the district leader? But to admit that the results of the work of “their” governor in the Irkutsk region are deplorable, “United Russia” does not want and can not, therefore, support him in any way possible. This is the answer to the question why they have such a reaction to our research on the forest and Baikal in the Irkutsk region.

Yes, only for these problems! Most of the demands in the State Duma generally come traditionally from our party. Therefore, they contain many questions and issues that are annoying to the authorities. Therefore, United Russia is trying to block our initiatives in various ways: either by voting, taking advantage of its position as a parliamentary majority, or by trying to “drown” our proposals in the abyss of various procedural stinginess. And the ultimate goal of all this is to minimize, and even better, the complete elimination of the activity of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in any public sphere. This is their policy.

“But if this continues, then a critical situation may soon arise in Lake Baikal, and beyond. What to do?

– Good question. In addition, as has been rightly pointed out, the situation is indeed deteriorating rapidly. What was observed, incidentally, at UNESCO. Last year, at their meeting in China, UNESCO representatives made it clear that if the situation does not change in the foreseeable future, Lake Baikal will be moved from the list of “natural heritage” to the list of endangered heritage. And this is fraught with very serious consequences for Russia. And not only environmentally, but also economically. In this case, ecology and the economy are very closely linked.

The next UNESCO meeting, which will also consider the issue of Lake Baikal, is scheduled for July this year in Paris, the capital of France. And it can not be ruled out that this object will move to another aforementioned situation …

But what is surprising is that in September 2019, the president’s mandate had a date to solve all the problems with the ecology of Lake Baikal in a short time. Deadlines have been set for 2021. But since then, they are collapsing. To date, six of their transfers have already been recorded!

On this occasion, parliamentary inquiries were made. However, in response, extremely vague explanations were received from the Ministry of Natural Resources regarding the difficulty of recycling waste from businesses on the shores of Lake Baikal due to overflow of storage facilities. But there is no work yet on waste disposal.

In general, one has the impression that the current Russian government is not in a position to deal with the accumulated problems. Hence, such a painful reaction to any of its mistakes and shortcomings. In addition, the actual “throws” can be noted. Let me give you an example from my government practice: in April 2019, I asked the President to introduce a legal ban on the export of round timber from the country, as, for example, in the Irkutsk region it would be very likely that edited by ourselves. The answer, however, did not come from the administration of the head of state, but from the Ministry of Industry with a short resolution: “We consider it inappropriate.” But less than a year has passed, and President. Has signed just such a decree – banning the export of round timber. It’s true, and this command is not executed.

However, there is a solution to the problem, in my opinion. To do this, it is necessary to build relations with UNESCO with the participation of foreign experts and environmental observers. And we must finally start working actively in this direction. After all, if we are subject to any restrictions or sanctions in this area, then it is bad: it is easy to fall into restrictions, but it is much more difficult to get rid of them later. And for us now the best way out is to return to the positive experience of environmental work in the Irkutsk region in 2015-2019. I’m sure the results will come.

How do you intend to continue this struggle at parliamentary level? After all, despite the “blocking” of your environmental initiative by “United Russia”, it is obvious that the understanding of the problem by other parties is increasing. He even showed a vote.

– We do not expect any constructive from United Russia. It simply can not exist, because the issue is in the regime represented by “United Russia”. As for the serious issues, as I have already noted, the current Russian authorities cannot and do not know how to resolve them. That is why he is afraid to make difficult decisions.

As for the vote, yes, the opposition was almost unanimous in it. Our initiative was supported by MPs from A Just Russia – For Truth and the majority of the LDPR faction – a total of 105 votes. Not so little, given the fact that almost all the other deputies are members of United Russia. And the fact that United Russia opposed and even panicked because of our proposals will only give us strength. We believe that their vote looks like a Pyrrhic victory. We will continue to fight and we will not give up until we achieve our goal.

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