Sunday, September 21, 2014

Transcarpathia and Transnistria SitRep 14 Sep - 20 Sep

by "Y"



More than one hundred Zakarpattya Border Guards were sent to front in the east. Groups photographs taken at the leaving parade show the extremes the Ukrainians have resorted to. The members are not of prime military age, are generally older adults. Their physique is very variable, including a significant proportion of extremes. The recruits are reported to have been given 2 weeks training.

Four prisoners of war were returned to Transcarpathia as a result of the cease fire. These were members of the 51st Mechanized Brigade and were in good physical shape. They were captured near Ilovaisk on 24 August. A further two are due to be repatriated in the near future.

Volunteer collections for materials and supplies to be sent to the front in support of the Transcarpathian troops still are held. Some supplies are handed over to the Transcarpathian Border Guard members before they leave for the front. Others are been delivered by a local coordinator. The supplies are taken by private van for distribution at Pisk near Donetsk. To date, four such deliveries have been made.

Bishop Milan Shashik confirmed that parishioners of the Greek-Catholic church in Mukachevo donated funds sufficient for an ambulance to be bought and sent to the front. Others have constructed and donated lightweight stretchers. Further voluntary support on behalf of Transcarpathian members of 51st Mechanised Brigade raised about 40,000 UAH for food and clothing and 15,000 UAH for computers and printers. Canada provided kevlar helmets and flak jackets for those departing for the front. It is not clear whether this donation derives from the Canadian government or from Ukrainians residing in Canada. The electoral candidate Viktor Baloha claims to have donated an armoured van.

Finally, this week a further 19 refugees have arrived from the east and Crimea, bringing the total to 1503 (1485) from Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and 228 (227) from Crimea. The figures in brackets represent the totals residing within Transcarpathia at the end of August. This weekly total is much less than the average of about 240 refugees for the first two weeks of September. Whilst this may indicate that people are still leaving despite the cease fire, there is no indication of how long it took them (and hence the departure date) to travel to Transcarpathia.

The Ukrainian government is reported to have provided 257 million UAH for the families of 423 fallen soldiers. It remains to be seen whether the government can continue this level of financial support once the true figure of losses become visible.


Local reports illustrate the dire straits of the economy. Laws relating to recording currency conversion transactions at banks are being changed. These changes will require some transactions to be reported daily to central authorities rather than monthly. This reflects concerns about capital flight. The government is promoting 'War Bonds' which offer a 7% return over two years in an attempt to raise money quickly. The so-called 'war tax' has been extended until 2016, which says something about the government's expectation for peace.

Further price increases have been announced, including 3% increase on fuel tax and locally increased charges for waste disposal starting in 20015.

Proposals for integrating local rail networks into the systems of adjacent EU countries have focussed on 750 mm gauge and 1520 mm gauge lines in Transcarpathia. Reinstatement costs have forced the committee to focus on just the 750 mm tourist lines.


The local government has given details of the implications of a decree limiting the amount of gas available over the coming winter. It is responsible for ensuring compliance and aims to promote energy conservation and use of renewable energy.

Gazprom has reduced the energy flow through Uzhgorod corridor to the minimum contract values in response to a proposal for reverse flow from Slovakia to Ukraine.


Opposition to the mobilisation process continues. Representatives of the Slovak population protest against Slovakian men being sent to ATO. Ivan Latko, president of the Slovak Association of Uzhgorod stated "Our youth does not want to fight and die in eastern Ukraine. We believe that the Ukrainian government does not make substantive action in order to stop the war".

Local media reports the intent to create a battalion of female volunteers. So far, 20 women have volunteered. The have received a one week training course, focussing on stripping and reassembling a rifle, elementary tactics and practice in a local wooded area. The training is provided by Pravi Sektor members. It is not clear that these tutors have actual military experience at the front.


The lustration process initiated by the Poroshenko regime is under way. This process excludes individuals with a questionable political past from further political activity. The intent is probably to remove anyone who would oppose integration within the EU, the austerity measure required by the IMF and anyone on a Pravi Sektor blacklist.

Locally, Valeriy Lenchenko, Chairman of the Transcarpathian regional state administration has been dismissed. Others affected appear to include Viktor Lukach, Deputy head of infrastructure, utilities, construction, Roman Shnitser, head of the Department of Health and Marianna Gag Director of the Department of Education.

Viktor Baloha, a candidate in the pending election is showing his colours. He stated that "First Putin threatened to take Kiev within two weeks. Europe remained silent and made us sign the 'Minsk Covenant'. Now Putin promises to restore the 'Iron Curtain' within two days. If Europe is silent this time, the next threat from Putin will be to take Berlin and Madrid, and from there to Washington DC, not far away." He refers to Russians as "Asian savages". This obvious blatant fear-mongering bears no relation to reality. It will be very interesting to see how effective it is.

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban made a visit to the region. The only public information refers to a meeting at the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute to commemorate the opening of a refurbished building.


Members of the Carpathian Sich, a founder group of Pravi Sektor, forming part of the 5th Battalion Ukrainian Volunteer Corps, along with 93th Mechanized Brigade and the "Dnepr-1" battalion have been fighting near Pisky immediately west of Donetsk airport.

One member of the Carpathian Sich has produced an address to the Transcarpathians, stating "To win the war, you must first win the internal war - in the minds and hearts of people. Only then will we be able to overcome external Kremlin enemy. The first front - ideological - frankly we have lost, but the fight is not all war, and we are firmly focused on revenge. For friends, for family. For hunger, oppression, destruction, shootings. Everything will come in its own retribution. The Russian Federation is a parasite that is constantly trying to expand its territory at the expense of other peoples and other States at any cost. She is war, destruction, death" ... "its control lies in hypocrisy, meanness, it is being professionally trained to zombify". This is a classic example of projection. He (presumably) notes in tones of resentment that the group has to rely on the regular military for weapons.

Promoters of the Transcarpathian child battalion 'Falcon' have released a video showing a group of children, aged 2-10 years singing "Glory to Ukraine. Glory to its heroes. Death to moskals! Ukraine is above everything. The East and the West are together".

Seven Transcarpathian soldiers, mostly officers, have been posthumously awarded title 'Honorary citizen of Uzhgorod' for their personal courage and heroism in defending sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.


The discontent felt by the Hungarian speaking citizens in Transcarpathia is still present, expressed at a low level. Vasily Brenzovich, who is seeking parliamentary mandate, noted that there is now no representation for Transcarpathian Hungarians in the Ukrainian Parliament. The only way this can be gained is through a party list, the block of Petro Poroshenko. He does not accept this and propose continuation of action for representation of minority rights in the European Court of Human Rights.

In contrast, Laszlo Brenzovics, president of the Hungarian Ethnic Alliance (KMKSZ) said that it was a difficult decision to KMKSZ to adopt the Poroshenko's party bid. Given the current very serious and crucial situation in Ukraine, it is important that the Hungarians in Transcarpathia have control over their own development of the situation. The internal debate is due to be resolved in a closed meeting of the KMKSZ.



Whilst the Ukrainian regime has placed more troops at Bolgrad, close to the Moldova/Transistria/Ukraine border supposedly because of risks raised by Transnistria, the Ukraine ambassador to Moldova says Ukraine will never attack Transnistria. He states that Transnistrian comments about an economic blockade are propaganda.

The modern day Stranglelove, General Breedlove, is stirring things. He claims that NATO needs a regulatory framework to protect non-member countries given that Russia may conduct military operations in Moldova and Transnistria. He also claims that "In the last 12 years we have been trying to become partners with Russia". Maybe placing a missile defence system in Poland, allegedly to protect the west from Iranian missiles, was seen by Russia for what it is - protection for a pre-emptive US nuclear first strike, thereby destroying nuclear deterrence.


Following an outbreak of cutaneous anthrax in Cahul, south-west Moldova, Transnistria has introduced extra check on cattle imported from Moldova.

Inflation is reducing slightly, with some evidence for reducing food prices dropping. The annual inflation figure is expected to be about 4%.

A Russian trade delegation has visited Transnistria to discuss mechanisms to promote the sale of Transnistrian goods in Russia. The delegation subsequently visited Gagauzia.

The Transnistrian government has reacted to negative economic trends. It aims to generate a stable transparent tax system for small and medium businesses allowing them to plan for the short-term. The proposed introduction of VAT proved controversial. A proposal to introduce a tax of about 1.5% for the renovation and upgrade of the gas infrastructure was also rejected.


Gazprom has reduced the energy flow through Transnistrian corridor resulting in a 5% drop in supplies to Romania. This is in response to a proposal for reverse flow from Romania to Moldova.


Andre Sfonov, a former Minister of Education and now political analyst, opposes the current policies of Yevgeny Shevchuk, leader of Transistira. Safonov states that it is not appropriate to concentrate power in times of difficulty. He regards the government as incompetent and proposes that they should resign immediately. Shevchuk has initiated legislation to amend constitution, obliging deputies to work on a permanent basis, introduced changes which complicate the procedure for impeachment of President, whilst simplifying dissolution of armed forces.

The EU Delegation to Moldova has stated that minorities (e.g. those in the pro-Russian autonomous region of Gagauzia) should not be worried about Moldova's association with EU. The Council of Europe representative met with the Transnistria Minister of Foreign Affairs, Igor Shornikov. They discussed partnership projects such as the development of media, civil sector, higher education, protection of cultural heritage and human rights.

Gagauzia and Transnist5ria have separately signed agreements of cooperation with Russian oblasts. Gagauzia signed a document with Nizhn Novgorod, covering trade, technological and humanitarian issues. Transnistria signed Memorandum of Cooperation with Archangelsk covering agriculture, light industry and tourism.

A ministerial delegation from Northern Ireland made a second visit to Transnistria in order to get first hand information about the status talks. The Transnistrian Foreign Minister noted some slight progress had been made - resumption of trade traffic through Transnistria, removal by Russian specialists of a dangerous disused cable car linking both sides of the Dniester river and resolution of some movement problems for people crossing into Moldova. Complications include Moldovan attempts to raise criminal charges against Transnistrian officials, and economic pressure from Moldova.

There has been no progress on the Joint Control Commission to resolve the status of Transnistria. Both sides have agreed to the inclusion of 25 issues on the draft agenda. However, the next meeting of the JCC has been cancelled, with both sides blaming each other, unwilling to compromise over differences.


The 400 strong contingent of Russian troops present as part of the long-established Moldovan/transnistrian/Russian peace-keeping force, took part in an annual training exercise. Tasks included the assembly of pontoon bridges across a river. It remains to be seen to what extent this is projected as i) an invasion of new troops and ii) preparation for war.

The Guardian, a UK 'newspaper', has released an article about Transnistria - "One secret policeman each: life in Fortress Transnistria". It includes a trailer of the video with an opening caption 'Pridnestrovie is a small part of Moldova with population 500,000'. The Guardian writes "What is it like to live in a state that hardly anyone recognises? Secret police, central planning and the ever-present face of Russian-backed strongman Igor Smirnov". These comments set the tone. Secret police - check. Central planning - check. Russian-backed - check. Strongman - check. Interestingly, they use the Russian name Pridnestrovie rather than the Romanian/Moldovan name.


A BBC video takes a similar line to the Fortress piece promoted by the Guardian. It raises one parallel with Ukraine; most of the industry originally in Moldova was located in the east of the country and now lies in Transnistria.

A third video 'The Renegade province fuelling tensions between Russia and Moldova' also focusses on the porous border with Ukraine, and alleged weapons trading, including so-called weapons of mass destruction. This latter story appears to have originated with mysterious documents that just happened to come into the hands of Oazu Nantoi, a former Moldovan government official and head of a Moldovan NGO. These documents allegedly describe 38 Alazan weather-control rockets modified to carry radioactive material intended to track clouds. The original source for the above report appears to be Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (i.e. US sponsored BS) These alleged rockets conveniently become known as 'dirty bomb-type missiles'. A later report links these same (non existent?) rockets to Zaqarwi and al Qaeda.

An alternative outlook, that gets away from the blatant propaganda of the Guardian and BBC pieces, is provided by Lada Ray. Her website is rather quirky, but she offers several videos related to this part of the work. One in particular relates to Transnistria, in which she presents a first hand, personal, often humorous and human view of the region. She reports on how dependent Moldova is on money sent to it by legal and illegal Moldovan migrant workers in Russia and the EU (~30% of GDP is quoted). Her predictions on the other hand ...

Jeroen Akkermans, the RTL News photographer who made the invaluable photographic records of the debris of the MH17 incident, has an album of photographs of Transnistria taken in 2010.