Orest Bilko from Lviv, 44, can break out the champagne, as he earned at least 150 million hryvnias for the past week by selling almost 17 hectares of land in «Pid Holoskom» residential area in the north of Lviv. A little-known and private person, Orest Bilko initially accumulated more than 24 ha in this area. If things proceed the same way, he will earn over 200 million hryvnias.
We could only be happy for him, if it weren’t for a slight problem. In reality, deputies of Lviv city council gave almost all this land for free to members of cooperative gardens that their two colleagues are involved with. Unlike Orest Bilko, they are marked men in Lviv. They are the city council deputies Oleksii Riznyk and Iurii Lomaha. They seem to be the ones really controlling the company «FLO Lviv LLC» formally owned by Orest Bilko.
This story can serve as an illustration of the overall situation with the communal land in Lviv. Formally, no participant broke the law, as any citizen of Lviv can lay claim to a free land plot for gardening or construction. However, it’s only possible to implement this right if you know well how this system works and you yourself are a part of the system.
NGL.media investigated all the details of this scheme.
«Pid Holoskom» area covers more than 150 ha on the north outskirts of the city, and it was mostly intended for estate development. Only 13% of the area was allocated for multi-storey residential construction. Still, this plan has never been implemented. Developers’ greed and injudicious actions of Lviv city council caused multiple problems in this area.
That’s why now the name «Pid Holoskom» is first of all associated with chaotic residential development. High-profile scandals and residents’ protests in 2020 resulted in mayor’s office imposing moratorium on issuance of new city planning conditions and restrictions in this area for the first time in the city history. However, Lviv city council failed to adhere to their own prohibition later.
A larger portion of the area where only gardening cooperatives used to be, hasn’t been built up with new residential complexes; there are only trees, bushes, abandoned kitchen garden and stand-alone summer houses.
However, it can change quite quickly. Not only due to huge area ending up in the hands of one company – «LLC FLO Lviv» (formerly «Mystetsko-vystavkova galereia «Prostir»), but also because the official allowable use of the land has been changed to multi-apartment residential construction.
Neither of these land lots has been sold by auction (therefore, the city didn’t earna penny), but all of them were allocated to «Pidholosko» gardening association by the city council free of charge. This association was founded in late 2014 and liquidated on 19 January 2023 after it successfully completed its mission of receiving over 24 hectares of city land for free.
Charter of liquidated gardening association «Pidholosko» reads that its main goal was «efficient use of land plots by its members to grow fruit, berries and vegetables», as well as «growing flowers» and creating conditions for recovery and recreation of the cooperative members.
Myroslava Drozdovska was the head and co-founder of «Pidholosko». She was registered at the same address as children of Iurii Lomaha who became a deputy of Lviv city council from «European Solidarity» party in 2020. Lomaha himself refused to inform NGL what his relation to Drozdovska was, but he didn’t identify her as his wife in his income declaration either in 2019 or in 2020.
Six months after «Pidholosko» was founded, Lviv city council deputies gave the permission to develop land survey projects for land plots allocation in Holosko area, and in 2018 they assigned the total of 2.14 ha to private ownership of 27 cooperative members, including the then-future city council deputy Iurii Lomaha, Myroslava Drozdovska, Alina Lonevska – deputy Oleksii Riznyk’s wife – as well as his brother Volodymyr Riznyk and, presumably, his uncle Iurii Riznyk.
In autumn 2020 Iurii Lomaha and Oleksii Riznyk who are known as «Hryhorii Kozlovskyi’s lawyers», became Lviv city council deputies and «Pidholosko» started collecting lands with renewed vigour. In April 2021 city council gave 4.6 ha to association’s ownership for roads construction. In July, the cooperative members were given another 37 land plots, their total area reaching almost 3.2 ha. Finally, a week before the New Year 2022, 5.6 ha more were added for roads construction. As a result, the cooperative managed to accumulate over 24 hectares.
A separate explanation is required for more than 10 ha allocated for roads construction. Serhii Korovainyk, head of department for land resources management with Lviv city council claims that it’s about on-site roads within the cooperative land and the law allows giving land plots to private ownership to build roads. Still, he couldn’t recall any similar cases happening in Lviv before.
«It wasn’t our initiative, it was either after the committee’s amendments or at the session», claimed Serhii Korovainyk in his conversation with NGL. He presumed that in future the constructed roads can be given to the city or a servicing company.
«Prolisok» against «Pidholosko»
The majority of «Pidholosko» territory is covered with summer houses and gardens, abandoned long time ago, but some people are still farming in several places.
Members of gardening cooperatives are entitled to privatizing land regardless of the fact whether these people had been using the land before or not, explains Ievhen Vorobiov, lawyer with Human Rights Platform NGO. However, if cooperative members want to get land plots used by somebody else, they should get an approval from such land user.
That’s what causes certain problems. Land plots privatized by «Pidholosko» association include plots allocated for workers’ summer houses and gardens back in mid-60s of the previous century.
People who were using these plots founded a gardening cooperative «Prolisok» in 1997. The territory of this cooperative, around 2 ha in total, has been included into the detailed plan of Lviv in 2013, but their land plots for some reason were given to «Pidholosko» association.
Back in 1997 cooperative «Prolisok» requested the city council to give them the land for permanent use, but received no answer. In 2004, when Liubomyr Buniak still was the city mayor, the head of the cooperative Iryna Chaika asked the permission to privatize the land, but received a refusal, because this area was planned for residential development. People were only offered to rent these plots for 5 years.
Presently, the cooperative territory is abandoned and overrun with weeds. Vandals destroyed the cabins, cut down metal supports and even stole gates. Only one cabin of all survived. It belongs to Iryna Chaika from Lviv. The woman preserved documents not only about her contributions to the cooperative, but also those relating to allowing her father use of the land back in 1964.
However, summer house belonging to the father of Vira Muzyka, 40, has been burned. The plot was given to her grandmother to use, and her father is listed among the members of «Prolisok» cooperative. The plot the family is using now only has a small cover from rain. Vira was coming here with her children during lockdown when visiting parks was prohibited. When we came to the plot, someone had broken a lock on the wicket yet another time.
«When the Independence was proclaimed, there were 30-year-old trees growing here. There was a cabin, the swing hasn’t been cut down yet and I was happy. In 2013 my dad rejoiced that we would be able to privatize the land. My dad died in 2018. After this we learned that the plots are being privatized by other people… I remember how I would come here with my sister and I would climb a cherry tree», Vira Muzyka shows photos of her family and neighbors who would often get together in the gardens.
According to Iryna Chaika, members of «Prolisok» cooperative planned to request the city council to allow privatization of the land plots once again, as they were discussing it with the adjacent cooperatives. However, in 2019 they learned their territory already belongs to another cooperative, «Pidholosko».
When preparing documents for the session, employees of the department for land resources management with Lviv city council submitted informational notes reporting to the deputies that those plots were not given for anyone’s use. The department explains this by absence of documents.
«In their complaints they claim that the plots were given to them back in the 1960s, but we have no possibility to check old archive information for all land plots. Sometime in 2004 the inhabitants applied to receive land for gardening. Inconformity with the city planning documents can be a reason for refusal. «Pidholosko» applied to get the land not for gardening but for individual residential construction», explains Serhii Korovainyk.
According to Korovainyk, the fact that «Prolisok» cooperative was mapped on the detailed plan 2013 became news for him.
Kozlovskyi and his friends
Later land plots of «Pidholosko» cooperative were transferred to «Mystetsko-vystavkova galereia «Prostir» ownership which was renamed «FLO Lviv» in February this year. This company was founded by the deputy of Lviv city council Iurii Lomaha, who was running it until May 2021. Presently the company is registered in the name of non-public Orest Bilko.
We’ve already mentioned him in our investigation «Stadium for the son». It was his company «Bikok» that performed a role of technical competitor for Hryhorii Kozlovskyi’s company in tenders to supply equipment for Vynnyky communal enterprise «SportInvest».
If you take a look at Orest Bilko’s social media, you won’t get an impression of him being a prosperous businessman. Still, he has deep connections with Kozlovskyi’s deputy group.
For instance, Bilko owns a land plot in Maiorivka area, in «Vesna» gardening cooperative. Both Iurii Lomaha and Myroslava Drozdovska own land next to his.
In 2021, Bilko bought four flats in an old building adjacent to «Vynnykivskyi Rynok». We wrote about its illegal privatization in detail back in 2020. The first two flats were sold to PE «Halytskyi Shliakh» in December 2022, and two more were registered in this company’s name just recently, on March 16. «Halytskyi Shliakh» belongs to a deputy Oleksii Riznyk and it was his company that became a questionable owner of «Vynnkivskyi Rynok».
Deputies and gardeners
«FLO Lviv» is not the only Orest Bilko’s company that became an owner of large land plots in «Pid Holoskom» district.
In September 2021 our editorial team observed another case of land plots split-up in this district. Back then it took Lviv city council deputies three attempts to allow transfer of eight land plots in 6th Zaozernyi alley in the same district to non-public people.
The area was free from development and earlier a promise had been made to give this land for communal needs. But during this session that land evidently became a subject of negotiation between the factions. «Samopomich» didn’t support this matter and it didn’t receive the necessary number of votes. It was Iurii Lomaha, a deputy from «European Solidarity» who suggested taking the second vote. During the third vote «Samopomich» supported the vote and more deputies from «Holos» joined in.
Andrii Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, signed this notorious resolution. One week after its publication the land plots started being registered in «LLC Davfin»’s name – it’s another Orest Bilko’s company.
As it turned out, in March the same 2021 deputies gave out 12 more land plots nearby. Hryhorii Kozlovskyi personally prepared informational notes both for the first and the second resolution of the free allocation of 12 land plots. Despite the remarks, almost all factions voted for this resolution. These land plots were also given into ownership of LLC «Davfin» and «LLC Lorestyn» – another Orest Bilko’s company.
«I studied how this matter was being considered by the architectural committee [where I work] and during the session. No remarks were made during consideration of these matters. Moreover, as I understood from the discovered documents, this matter was submitted to the session, as it had been registered at the council since the previous tenure and left without consideration for unclear reason. As the matter concerned allocating land plots to the citizens who, as far as I understood, had been using them for a long time, we had no remarks about it», explained his voting Iurii Martyniuk, head of «VARTA» faction.
This is the excerpt from the meeting of the committee considering transfer of these plots. Deputy Liubov Davydovych emphasised twice that the plots were free so they could be sold by auction. However, Oleksii Riznyk, head of the committee responded twice, persisting that the plots were for «citizens» – and everyone voted «for» without further discussions.
What’s curious, «Lorestyn», the new land owner, managed to change the allowable use from gardening to multi-apartment property development without any problem only two months after free allocation of land to «the citizens», despite the fact that part of the plot is green area (L-1) where such development is prohibited. Helena Paionkevych, head of the legal department with Lviv city council wrote about it in her remarks to the draft resolution.
Regardless of all these remarks, all factions of city council supported the resolution to change the allowable use, including two deputies from «Samopomich», Ievhen Boiko and Volodymyr Luchyshyn.
«Frankly speaking, I don’t understand now how it happened that I voted «for». I understand it’s not a proper deputy’s answer and each matter is a personal responsibility… The faction’s decision was not to support this matter, and I was against supporting it too. But somehow what happened happened», explains Volodymyr Lushyshyn now.
While this material was being written, «Lorestyn» and «Davfin» stopped being the land owners, as they sold it to «Linter-Plast» in February 2023. By the way, in September 2022 «Lorestyn» received almost 0.22 ha of adjacent land for rent. «Linter-Plast» also started renting this plot in November.
Hectares of land that used to be privatized and owned by private companies, now have a totally different allowable use. These are not gardening plots any more, but the land intended for multi-apartment residential buildings.
According to the detailed area plan, the land cooperative privatized is mostly located in the area of estate residential development at present, where only buildings up to four storeys are allowed as an exception. However, in autumn 2020 the city council allowed to make changes to urban development documents in this district. In January this year the agreement with «Mistoproject» that is carrying out this project, has been extended till the end of 2023.
The police have been investigating criminal proceedings about privatization of cooperative «Prolisok»’s land for three years now. Recently, the investigator on the case was changed yet another time. The case gets closed from time to time, and Iryna Chaika and Vira Muzyka are forced to appeal these decisions in courts.
Very important post scriptum
When this article was ready to be published, «NGL.media» Editorial team discovered that LLC «FLO Lviv» started large-scale sale of the accumulated land. Only for a week of March 22-29 the company sold almost 17 hectares in three parts, making at least 150 million hryvnias. This is proved by the standard estimated money value of the sold plots and a sale and purchase agreement a copy of which is at NGL’s disposal. So, as of today, «FLO Lviv» still owns a bit more than 5.1 hectares.
Companies «Porterra Group», «Monoland», «Arktos-Land» and the above «Linter-Plast» becamenew owners of the land. All these companies have common beneficiaries – Andrii Uhryn, Andrii Krynytskyi and Iaroslava Vityk. In their turn, they are united by a common construction brand «Aurum». For instance, Andrii Krynytskyi,54, is a director or co-founder of a number of companies named «Aurum»: Residential construction cooperative «Aurum City I», «Aurum Tower LLC», «Aurum City LLC» and others. Andrii Uhryn, 56, is also one of the founders of «Aurum Tower» and «Aurum City».
Iaroslava Vityk, 71, is a co-founder of «Mega-Tex» together with Krynytskyi and Uhryn. She is the mother of Orest Vityk, former deputy head of the Central Administration of the State Fiscal Service in Lviv oblast and acting head of State Tax Service in Kyiv oblast. It looks like Vityk is not working at the tax agency anymore, as she’s been the head of «Aurum Tower LLC» since May 2022. According to Orest Vityk’s old declarations, his wife Iryna received profit from companies named «Aurum». She also is a co-founder of «Aurum City LLC», residential construction cooperative «Aurum IV», residential construction cooperative «Aurum Tower ІV» and others.
«Aurum» website writes about four commissioned residential complexes in Lviv and six more which are in the process of construction.