Amber Mafia Wars In The Ukraine – Part I

Dear Readers:

Today I have a “True Crime” story for you.  For several months now, I have been following, in the press, some stuff going on in the Ukraine which falls under the rubric “Amber Mafia Wars”.   For example, here are some links of incidents which occurred in the past year:

January 15, 2017 – town of Rokitnovsky, Rivne Oblast.  A big shoot-em-up with machine guns and hostage taking.  According to the reporter, Olga Kozachenko, the Mafia fights over amber get so ferocious, that even the cops decline to intercede.  In desperation, the local (law-abiding) residents call in TV reporters, in the hope that something will be done to save their town from these gangs.

January 16, 2017 – town of Olevsk, another big shoot-em-up.  According to the reporter, Mikhail Ryabov, a grenade got tossed, people were wounded, at least one death, tons of blood.  This incident occurred brazenly right in the center of town, and involved competing “Amber Gangs” fighting over the loot.  Peaceful law-abiding citizens of the town were rudely awakened from their repose.  According to one account:  “Around midnight in the very center of Olevsk, at least 3 cars pulled up, one of them being a minivan.  Out of the cars emerged unknown men of athletic build [yalensis:  also check out the tats on these thugs, in the accompanying photographs!], armed with pistols and rifles.  These guys opened fire on some other young men who were hanging around the cafe and parking lot.”  During the ensuing scrimmage, somebody thoughtfully tossed a grenade into the crowd, resulting in numerous injuries.

Olevsk is in Western Ukraine.

The bandits then leaped into their getaway cars and sped away.  Ambulances carted the wounded to a nearby hospital.  Hospital personnel were terrified, noticing that some of the men they were treating, were armed to the teeth.  The following morning, law-abiding citizens started gathering on the streets in protest, demanding that the authorities and police do something about this awful Amber crime wave.

March 18, 2017 Rivne Oblast.  In this case, the thin line between “labor action” and “criminal action” is admittedly blurry:  According to the headline: “Amber Miners Have Closed the Road Connecting Kiev and Warsaw”.

All of these “Amber” towns are in Western Ukraine.

Two days earlier, on March 16, police had detained some men using motor-pumps to illegally extract amber from … wherever amber is extracted from.  A crowd of some 30 other men wearing balaclavas rushed the cops, tossing bricks and empty bottles.  One of the men even shot a cop out of a pneumatic gun.  Fortunately, the cop was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and the bullet didn’t penetrate into his flesh.  The cops arrested the ringleader of the amber gang.

Rivne boasts a world-famous Amber Museum

March 18, as an act of protest, the amber miners gathered near the town of Klesov.  They shut down the highway Kiev-Warsaw and carried on egregiously with their disorderly protest.  The workers demanded that the authorities (1) allow them to continue to mine for amber; and (2) release their ringleader.

Here, the reporter, Semen Doroshenko, dropped the lede, namely:  Why is personalized amber mining forbidden by the Ukrainian government?  Is amber extraction not a respectable career opportunity in this part of Europe, so rich in this gummy gold?  Are men not free to roam about at will carrying their own motor-pumps, like Forty-niners in Goldrush California times?

May 20, 2017 – also Rivne, of course it’s Rivne, this latest incident happened just today.  The reporter is our old friend, Olga Kozachenko.  Once again, the illegal amber miners have clashed with the police.    Final score:  Police down 10 men, miners victorious.  The miners even remembered to set the cop cars on fire.  Clearly these gangs have the upper hand in the Western Ukrainian forests where amber lurks.

In tomorrow’s installment, I’ll quote some of Olga’s interesting facts about amber sales on the Gdansk stockmarket, and also delve into some more backstory, like What is amber?  Why is it so valuable?  Who owns it?  Why is its extraction sometimes illegal?  And What does illegal amber mining do to the environment?

[to be continued]

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