Since the beginning of summer, different regions of Bulgaria were swept away by floods after heavy downpours. Many experts backed the idea that indiscriminate and illegal felling in the country has strongly accentuated the effect of the water element.

In a series of publications, BIVOL will showcase two former employees of the specialized unit “Forest Guard” at the Executive State Forestry Agency. Usain Shakirov and Georgi Donchev have been fighting for years against illegal felling, the forest mafia and corruption in the system of State forest farms. Before BIVOL, the men talked openly about the schemes to drain State Forestry and the pressure that was exerted on them when they caught “red-handed” people close to those in power. The story took place in the village of Rozino in 2009.

Listen HERE (in Bulgarian) to some of their genuine confessions of corruption in the forest system, of timber mafia and the need for lustration (limiting the participation of former communist officials and especially informants of the communist secret police in the civil service – editor’s note) – stories about the real culprits of the punishment that befell on Bulgaria.

Who are Usain Shakirov and Georgi Donchev?

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Until January 31, 2014, Usain Shakirov and Georgi Donchev were part of the specialized unit “Forest Guard” at the Executive State Forestry Agency. On February 1 this year, they were dismissed on the outrageous grounds that there was a need to reduce costs from their wages. This is not the first time when they were kicked from the forestry system, although they are (or maybe because they are) sworn enemies of the timber mafia. They suspect that the long arm of the party of the Turkish minority, known as Bulgaria’s backseat ruler – the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) – is connected with the fact that they are back on the labor market.

Usain Shakirov is a graduate of the Forestry High School in Batak. In 1999, he graduated with a major in Agricultural Economics from the Academy of Economics in the Danube town of Svishtov. He began work as a forest ranger in the now-distant 2000 in the State Forestry and Game Farm – Sliven. Three years later, he became part of the mobile forest team on the Volume of Logged Timber in Sliven. After a series of misadventures, about which we will tell you in a later publication, in 2008, he was appointed senior specialist in the specialized unit “Forest Guard” at the Regional Forestry Directorate – Sofia. The unit is directly subordinate to the department “Security” in the State Forestry Agency (now Executive State Forestry Agency).

Eng. Georgi Donchev started his career as a forest ranger in the winter of 1999, again in the State Forestry and Game Farm – Sliven, where he rose to senior forester. In 2002, he graduated from the Forestry School in Velingrad, and in 2005, he enrolled in the “Forestry” program of the Forestry University in Sofia. Fate brought him together, in the same team with Usain Shakirov, in March 2009 in the specialized unit “Forest Guard”.

The first of the major calamities, through which the two men went together, was in October 2009 near the town of Ihtiman. While they were chasing violators after illegal felling, their office car was hit by the poachers’ car and overturned. They were taken to the emergency “Pirogov” hospital in Sofia. Georgi Donchev had a brain concussion and a sprained neck and Usain Shakirov – a brain concussion and a broken vertebra.

The violators from the family Ralenkov, however, got away. They were issued a citation for speeding through the town. Prosecutors failed to indict them for not stopping after seeing the baton of the forest guards. They were not charged with running away from authorities when the latter started pursuing them. To top it all, Ralenkovi staged a car crash while transporting the illegally felled timber. A government vehicle was totaled in the incident and the two forest rangers sustained medium bodily injuries and spent a year on sick leave. For the prosecutors in Ichtiman, however, this is not grounds to launch a legal case against the poachers. Insiders whispered to the forest rangers that the Roma family was a factor in the election vote trade in Ihtiman and this was the reason why they got away. This is how this story ended, but it was only the beginning for the team. Their tribulations continue to this day.

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