Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Transcarpathian Gambit

00 carpatho-russian. 06.08.14


The Ukrainian junta launched a third wave of mobilisation to make good losses suffered in Novorossiya. It hit big bumps on the way. Nobody wants to be cannon fodder for the junta, just to add to the death toll of thousands. People ran away from different regions of the country, even ones situated far from the conflict zone, to find refuge in Russia. Many of them are male citizens of military age. The situation in the Western Ukraine, especially Podkarpatskaya Rus, is explosive, with people’s discontent ripening. The region buried 70 countrymen who lost their lives in the Donbass battles. The anger against the junta is growing…


In the past, Podkarpatskaya Rus was part of Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Romania, so, it has a mixed population. There are large Magyar, Slovak, Romanian, and Roma (gypsy) communities, but the Rusins are the majority. Unlike the USA and Europe, the Ukraine refuses to recognise the very existence of the Rusin people. At census time, and in their passports, the Ukrainians forcibly register Rusins as Ukrainians. The Ukrainian government refused to recognise the results of the 1991 referendum on granting Podkarpatskaya Rus autonomy. It all fuels a rising resentment. The February putsch in Kiev gave the Rusin and Magyar movements for autonomy a new impetus. The Euromaidantsy exacerbated the situation by repressions against the Magyar minority. Therefore, Rusins and Magyars joined forces, coordinated their activities, and formed a united front to protest the third phase of mobilisation announced by Poroshenko.

Rusin leader Pyotr Getsko said that 90.9 percent of all the peoples in Podkarpatskaya don’t recognise P A Poroshenko as the legitimate Ukrainian President. When asked about the unravelling of the operations in Donbass, where the repression operation is proceeding, 76.9 percent said that yellow-blue {the colours of the Ukrainian flag: editor}, not brown, is now the colour of fascism… a plague that revived in the Ukraine in our time. The peoples of Podkarpatskaya refused to comply with the junta’s demand that they go to war against other Ukrainian citizens. They block roads, including international motorways; they picket recruitment offices and other state buildings.

Family members of draftees blocked the roads near the Tereblya River in Tyačev Raion, and the MukačevoRogatin motorway near Sinevir. On 30 July, the head of local administration in Sinevir tried to unblock the road and convince the local people to comply with the government order. The protesters sliced up the tires of his car. Traffic stopped on the Čop-Kiev motorway near Rakošino and Strabičоvo, as well as the road going around from Mukačevo to Užgorod through Červenyovo and the road through Čop from Mukačevo. Protesters threatened to block the railway near Goronda and the mountain pass crossing through the Carpathians at Nizhnie Vorota, which is an important pass from Podkarpatskaya Rus to the Ukraine. A few days earlier, protest actions took place in Dombrovka and Červenyovo of Mukačevo Raion, and in four towns of Khust and Beregovо Raions. A mass protest took place in Beregovo (mainly populated by Magyars), demonstrators from Beregovo, Dyida, and Velikiye Berega surrounded a recruiting office. Marta Chok said, “They called 11 men aged 18 to 45 for service. They people tore up the call-up papers; the women blocked the road. Traffic going to Hungary had to find another route”. The Rusins and Magyars aren’t alone in protesting the draft. Roma refused to answer the call-up; they refused to kill Donbass people. They started to erect barricades.  The local head of the recruiting office had to admit that the conscription was illegal and had to stop the draft procedures in that district.

Conscription only applies to ordinary people. According to reports from Kiev, the former interim “president” and incumbent Rada speaker A V Turchinov recently fired an enlistment official who dared to send a call-up paper to draft his son. YouTube removed a video of people in Mukačevo vociferously confronting a recruitment official on the pretext of copyright violation. In panic, Kiev gave orders to “normalise” the situation in Mukačevo and re-start draft at any cost by 5 August. Ukrainian law provides tough punishment for draft dodgers and those who resist conscription, but discontent continues to grow. People ask, “What are we fighting for? Why aren’t the kids of high officials called into service?” For instance, the son of V I Balogh, the boss of Clan Balogh in Podkarpatskaya, isn’t going off to the war. Why should only the poor be the ones to lose their lives? One of the girls amongst the protesters said that they drafted her father and one of her brothers at the same time. The family has six children.

The junta calls the protesters “agents of Moscow”. Everywhere in Podkarpatskaya, the junta authorities claim that they’re looking for “Russian journalists”, “separatists”, and “FSB agents”. They accused ten men of “activities aimed at creating obstacles on the roads”. Central Ukrainian media outlets are under censorship, or what the junta cynically calls “a moratorium on criticism of the government”, so, they pay no heed to events in Podkarpatskaya, and they harass journalists who try to tell the truth. The junta deported Alina Epremyan, a US journalist working for RT RUPTLY, from the Ukraine on 1 August. The video journalist worked in the Western Ukraine, in Rakošino in Podkarpatskaya. She was filming a story about the protests against sending men to the Novorossiya to take part in the repression operation.  As in the case with Graham Phillips, the SBU removed all her videos. They deported Phillips to Poland, banning him from the country for three years {if the junta lasts that long!: editor}. The repressions feed people’s anger. Protesters in Rakhov Raion beat Lieutenant Colonel Yeremchyuk. Protestors forced Acting Užgorod Mayor Viktor Shchadei from Clan Balogh and his deputy Aleksandr Volosyansky to resign. Public utilities workers armed with stiff street-cleaning brushes chased them out of the building.

Sergei Ratushnyak, the former mayor of Užgorod, used his Facebook page to call the people of the district to block all the four mountain roads leading to Galicia and the airport until Kiev grants the region the autonomy it voted for in the referendum of 1991. He believes the region can be economically independent, due to the transit fees for the use of seven gas routes going from Russia to Europe through its territory, with security guaranteed by getting hold of local weapons stockpiles. The region has a special feature. The larger ethnic minorities, Magyars, Slovaks, and Romanians, have close ties with the neighbouring states. The Hungarian political party Jobbik supports a Rusin-Magyar autonomy.  It believes that an autonomy is the only way to find a solution to the region’s problems. According to Petro Getsko, 71.4 percent of the region’s population support this point of view.

If the protest continues to escalate and if the Kiev junta tried to use punitive action to quell it, like it does in the Donbass, Hungary and Romania wouldn’t ignore their compatriots living in the Western Ukraine. To avoid a division inside NATO, the USA and its European allies would have to overlook the support of “separatists” by Budapest and Bucharest to keep Kiev away from opening a Western front. It’d demonstrate NATO’s double standards, it’d inevitably damage the image of the USA and the EU, but they’d do anything to keep Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia inside the Euro-Atlantic structure. This unravelling of events would discredit the Ukrainian authorities, provoke unrest in other regions of the country, stymie Poroshenko’s war plans, and undermine the attempts of Washington and Brussels to demonise both Russia and the Donbass opolchenie. Will Washington and Brussels sacrifice Podkarpatskaya Rus to get a more valuable prize? What will they choose… will they give a green light to a war at the EU’s border, or, will they agree to cut Podkarpatskaya Rus free of the Ukraine? Time alone will tell us.

5 August 2014

Aleksandr Donetsky

Strategic Culture Foundation


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