On 24 February 2022 the Russian Federation launched an invasion of Ukraine. The political situation remains extremely volatile. The timber legality dashboard was drafted prior to the current conflict.
- Fraud and corruption have been historically a pervasive problem impacting the forest sector and the full timber supply chain from harvest to export.
- Reported rates of illegal logging in Ukraine vary considerably, reflecting the distinction between wood theft/illegal logging without papers and illegal logging with papers.
- High-profile investigations released in 2018 and 2020 by the NGO Earthsight report illegal logging associated with FSC- certified timber in Ukraine. FSC strongly denies Earthsight’s findings.
- Enforcement remains limited in capacity.
- EU Member States have issued high alert warnings for illegal timber from Ukraine.
- The political and legal context is evolving which makes the timber legality context fluid.
Read more by downloading the Ukraine Timber Legality Risk Dashboard here.
The European Commission is investigating potential illegal imports of Russian birch plywood products into the European Union. CELEX:32023R1649:EN:TXT.pdf (europa.eu) There has been a significant increase in imports of Russian birch plywood into Turkey and possibly Kazakhstan, and an increase in exports of birch plywood from both countries to the EU—although neither has been a significant producer of birch plywood in the past. The EU banned Russian wood after Russia invaded Ukraine.
ICIJ partners in Europe revealed the indirect trade routes used to mask the origins of Russian timber, which continues to flow into the EU despite being banned.
Paper Trail Media, Der Spiegel, ZDF and others analyzed trade data to trace the pathway of banned wood through third countries, including China, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, about 80% of all birch plywood globally was produced in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
After the fifth package of sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU finally entered into force in July 2022, the import of roundwood and wood products, including birch plywood, from Russia to the EU was banned. However, according to information and statistics obtained from the market, it seems that illegal Russian birch plywood continues to be imported to Europe from third countries.
This is reflected in increased imports of birch plywood from countries such as Kazakhstan and Turkey. Considering the production capacity of Kazakhstan, we can see that the country does not have sufficient birch plywood production to be able to deliver the volumes recorded in the statistics.
Illegal birch plywood travels to the European markets in many ways. The import ban is evaded by transit through a third country, for example. The third countries may also make minor changes to the plywood, after which the country where the changes were made is reported as the products’ country of origin. Another way is to use a false tariff heading so that the product is excluded from sanctions.
Russia has been accused of engaging in industrial-scale logging in Ukraine, cutting down large swaths of trees for sale and to strengthen its defensive positions. In a letter to President Putin, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu requested permission to harvest timber and stated that “wood not used for defense will be sold to finance the military operation.”
Forty-three organizers of illegal logging schemes, including high-ranking officials of state forestry enterprises, have been convicted in Ukraine since the beginning of this year, Ukraine’s SBU State Security Service has told Ukrinform.
A group of companies found to have illegally logged as many as 4mn trees in Siberian forests supplied furniture giant Ikea with wood for years, with a product likely to have contained the illegally sourced Russian wood sold every two minutes, according to the results of an investigation by environmental NGO Earthsight released in July.
Click here to access the Global Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (ILAT) Risk assessment tool and to download the Forest Trends User Guide describing the functionality of the ILAT Risk Data Tool.
Click here to access the Cattle Data Tool.