Monday, October 6, 2014

Transcarpathia, Transnistria and Gagauzia SitRep 28 Sep - 05 Oct

by "Y"



Charitable events continue as a means of supplying aid to troops in the east. Returning troops from the 15th Mountain Infantry Battalion of the 128th Brigade have stated the prime need is for diesel generators, fuel, heaters, thermal underwear and winter clothing. Collections and other actions have raised funds of at least 41,000 UAH (~ $3000) for supplies such as canned food, fast food, coffee and tea. A group of Svoboda supporters have provided a Grand Cherokee Jeep for use in the ATO. This was used to transfer supplies to the front. The local regional coordinating committee has been disbanded, and replaced by volunteers, seemingly part of the 'lustration' process aimed at removing corruption and giving greater transparency.

The Transcarpathian authorities have applied to the Ukraine Ministry of Defense for funding to supply all military needs, especially winter clothing. The sum of 3.5 million UAH has been transferred to military budgets for the purchase of bullet-proof vests, helmets, military boots and warm clothes for up to 650 people. A further 1 million UAH has been allocated for communications equipment.

The reports relating to troop movements are mixed and confusing. One report notes that 38 security police have been sent to the east with another 8 to follow. Another report states that 50 local riot police officers will depart for the ATO zone to relieve others there. The supposed rotation of Border Guard officers to replace troops from 128th Brigade still has not taken place. The parents of these troops still at the front have started protests, stating they may take claims to the International Court of Justice if the rotation does not happen soon.

Some official casualty figures have appeared. The recent attacks at Donetsk resulted in the death of 7 troops with 9 wounded. A further 200 at least were lost at Ilovaisk. Poroshenko has reported that officially 967 Ukrainian troops have been killed to date. The Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN is reported as stating a further 700 troops and 1700 civilians are held by the separatists.

Officially 24 men from Transcarpathia have died in combat. The losses include one Lieutenant Colonel. four Captains and two Lieutenants, with the remainder a mix of NCOs and soldiers. The most recent fatality has been named - a 43 year old volunteer called Yuri Sokolachko, who served as an artillery spotter for the 128th Mechanized Brigade. The lost and survivors were honoured at a public ceremony in Uzhgorod.


The economic figures for the cost of the actions in the east are dire. Agricultural productivity to August is down 21.4% compared to August last year. The equivalent losses to July were 13%. The drop in industrial production appears to be a disastrous 97% in August compared to the previous month (i.e. an almost complete cessation of production, if the reports are accurate). Foreign investment to mid year has seen a drop of 75.4% compared to the previous year. Given these figures, the drop in exchange rate for the Hryvnia from 14.9 to about 13 to the US dollar seems surprising. This may reflect the effects of the government clamp down on currency outflow, or more likely, external support for the Hryvnia in order to make things seem better than they are.

Transcarpathia is important as a focus of gas pipelines between Ukraine and Europe, both for flows westwards, and for reverse flows eastwards that have become essential for Ukraine. There are three main sources of reverse flow, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. The pipelines for these are capable of supplying 23, 17 and 5 million cubic metres of gas per day respectively. The Hungarian reverse flow has ceased in response to Russia's reduction in forward supply. The Hungarian President has stated that it has to put its own energy needs first. Slovakia has reported a 50% reduction in gas supplies, forcing it to reduce reverse flow. The resumption of supplies from Poland following the resolution of technical problems there will be welcomed by the Ukraine regime, but is of minor relevance given the supply figures above. It may be a sign of desperation that the Ukrainian gas corporation Naftogaz is reported to have signed a contract with Statoil of Norway for the supply of gas through Slovakia. The details of how this would work and how it would be financed have not been made public.

There is one extremely tiny piece of good news for Ukraine. An illicit small scale oil extraction facility has been detected and fixed. Inexplicable oil leaks were observed near an oil pipeline close to the border with Hungary. It appears that someone had tapped the pipe to extract possibly a few thousand gallons per day. Shoddy workmanship gave their game away.

As reported earlier, Ukrainian electricity exports have been hit. Published figures report a loss of 4.1% in the first eight months of this year compared to last year. This form of presentation of data may average out and mask any sudden dramatic loss arising from the recent devastation in the east.

Earlier directives from the Ministry of Defense requiring military commissioners of districts, cities and regions to go to the front to relive troops have had no effect. The local commander Colonel Ivan Vasilovich said he has received no orders regarding this, but will comply when ordered to do so.

It is unlikely there will be a fourth stage of mobilisation. Poroshenko has stated that the potential for peace in the east has reduced the need for such actions. The only requirement is to enable rotation of the troops at the front. The third mobilisation in the Beregovo district of Transcarpathia only raised 50% of the eligible candidates. Following this, it has cancelled its planned fourth stage of mobilisation. The stated reasons include the number of protests against the mobilisation and the reluctance of civilians to perform military service. The looming elections probably have nothing to do with this what so ever.

The main political events are the recently endorsed lustration process and the forthcoming election.

A total of 75 candidates are standing the six electoral districts forming Transcarpathia. The great majority of the candidates are described as 'self nominated' rather than representing one of the major parties. A high proportion of these 'self nominated' candidates are probably members of Svoboda. Parties associated with Tymoshenko and Lyashko have candidates in all six districts. The party associated with Yatsenyuk has five candidates. The parties associated with Klitschko and Poroshenko have only one candidate each, in the Uzhgorod district. Given the use of 'self nomination' to hide political allegiance, these figures may under represent the effective political affiliations. Two candidates for the Pravi Sektor party were rejected by the Election Commission. Their response was that everyone should remember the fate of Yanukovich.

A group of three brothers - the so-called Baloha clan - are standing for election, one each in districts 69 (Mukachevo), 71 (Hust) and 73 (Vinogradov). All are described as 'self-nominated'. The Baloha brother standing for Mukachevo gets a lot of coverage in the Mukachevo press. He comes out with some memorable quotes. For example, "the only place the Communist Party can speak is in the SBU office". On plans to create a national army of 150,000 professionals with 500,000 reserves, he asks about the costs and where will the money come from. He is reported as saying "Sorry, friends, but this is called selective Masturbation". He views Poroshenko as a capable business man, but not a President. Local opinion suggests that two of the brothers will almost certainly win seats.

Hubal, the Head of the Regional State Authority has met with OSCE representatives to discuss the electoral process. He has stated that the main concern is transparency of the elections and that the RSA will not interfere in the process. The OSCE representatives reiterated that they are just observers and have no policing powers. OPORA, an NGO monitoring the process, lists 'irregularities' it comes across. These include multiple candidates with the same surname, damage to party billboards, non-compliant advertising and plagiarism of mandate text. The use of 'self-nomination' to mask party allegiance does not appear to be an 'irregularity'.

Poroshenko has finally signed the Lustration Law. The Ukrainian Attorney General has expressed the view that some provisions of the law may inconsistent with the Ukraine constitution and the requirements of international (specifically EU) law. There may be a large number of appeals lodged with the European Court of Human Rights. Lustration enthusiasts have been preempting final acceptance of the law by pressing individuals to resign. Hubal has said the Head of Regional TV should resign, whilst the Head and Deputy Head of the local Health Organisation have already been affected. A temporary replacement has taken over their position.

One problem for the enthusiasts is that the Law does not apply to MPs. Baloha says this allows a fifth column to remain in parliament. His view is that the law needs expanding and candidates should be required to say whether they support the law or not on their ballots.

An alternative view of the 'lustration' process is that "Officially, the Law 'On cleaning power' is intended to restore trust in government and lay the legal basis for the construction of a new system of government by European standards. Unofficially - it is to gather votes and divert the public from violent economic crisis, the Hryvnia depreciation and political power failures in the Crimea and in the East."

Other recently reported items of political news include the delay by the EU in processing the Free trade Agreement with Ukraine, which may not happen before the end of 2015. Baloha blames government corruption for the delay in the implementation of visa-free travel to the EU countries. An amnesty for illegally held guns has been announced for October. The stated purpose is to prevent criminals gaining access to these weapons.

At a recent charity event in Uzhgorod celebrating the birthday of the artist Ignatius Roscovich, alongside the usual cake and book stalls was a shooting game for all the family - shoot Putin using a bow and arrow.

In contrast to the usual propaganda about Russian forces attacking Mariupol, the destruction of an elite Russian marine unit near Debaltseve located at the crossroads between Donetsk and Lugansk, and claims of KAMAZ lorries full of 'Cargo 200' heading towards Russia, there is an hilariously desperate article about an ethnic Hungarian member of an international group fighting with the separatists against the regime forces in the east.

The issues relating to the Hungarian minority continue unresolved. The Society of Hungarian Culture in Transcarpathia is reportedly intending to file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights over the problems with the boundary of the 73rd district. The Central Election Commission has declined to recreate a majority district for Hungarian interests. A change of boundary of the 73rd district prior to the 2012 election was made in favour of a pro-Government candidate who won. This was at the expense of Hungarian interests.

The charity established by the right wing Hungarian Jobbik party has been declared illegal and the Hungarian MEP Bela Kovacs has been banned from entering the country. An analyst, Professor Sergay Fedak, has stated that the majority of ethnic Hungarians are against autonomy, and are more concerned with the economy and social services. The report gives no clue as to how these conclusions were reached.

A local report linked to a TV program discussing Hungarian and Rusyn separatism. It showed a small demonstration in Budapest where Transcarpathian flags were shown. The commentators stated that it was not known who was behind this. Other sections of the program referred to Petro Getsko, the Rusyn separatist. The style of the program clearly implied that Russian funding and connections were behind the calls for autonomy.

Following the tension about autonomy and the suspension of reverse gas flow, it is not surprising that Nuland has stepped in making comments stating that Hungary is supporting nationalism and attempting a 'rollback of democracy'. It looks like Orban may have become persona non-grata for the Indispensable Nation®.

Transcarpathian fragment of Ukrainian patchwork
Ukrainian Armed Forces

Transnistria (aka PMR) and Gagauzia


The Moldovan MP who visited Donbass has urged the Council of Europe (PACE) to launch an investigation into the war crimes carried out in Donbass.

About 60 people from Ukraine have sought refuge in Transnistria following the actions in the east.

Work continues on the proposal for an airport at Tiraspol. A commission has been established to look at the costs of lighting, communications and runway upgrades. The main problem however is political. Given the uncertain legal status of PMR, the consent of Moldova is needed before the proposal to proceed to reality.

Moldova is still reportedly not issuing export certificates for PMR goods. In response to a deteriorating economy, the PMR government is proposing to raise excise duties on tobacco, alcohol, some luxury and electrical goods from January 2015.

Moldovan farmers affected the proposed road between Tiraspol and Ribnita have been offered compensation for the loss of use of their land.

Should Moldova proceed with a Free trade agreement with Europe, the PMR government would want to see a separate document covering equivalent relationships with Transnistria.

Figures recently released indicate the significance to the Moldovan economy of the contribution of personal remittances from abroad. The monthly total for August was about $154 million. Of this, 39% came from Russia, 36% from Europe and 25% from the US. These remittances amount to 25-30% of Moldova's GDP. Therefore, the contribution from Moldovan migrants to Russia is about 10-12% of GDP.

One of the consequences of the Kiev regime's actions in the east has been a reduction in coal supply with a consequent reduction in the exportable electricity capacity. Moldova has seen a 20% reduction in electricity supplied from Ukraine. This has been offset by an increased supply from the PMR power station. Moldova imports 90% of electricity with about 60% normally from Ukraine and about 30% from the PMR.

Gagauzia officials have opened discussions of the implementation of a mechanism by which Russia offers first 500 cu m of gas at reduced cost to consumers in Gagauzia. Gagauzia wants the gas pipelines in its territory that are not on Moldovan books to be integrated into a network, allowing it to join the gas market with the Customs Union. The PMR government has stated it is ready to pay market rates for Russia gas subject to the resolution of the economic blockades imposed on it.

Moldova has issued a demand that Russian peacekeeping troops should leave Transnistria. Ukraine has also placed restrictions on the flow of goods to Russian contingent. Shevchuk, the President of the PMR, states that the tripartite peacekeeping troops should remain in place until the final resolution of the political position.

Shevchuk has stated that claims of buildup of PMR troops preparing for an attack against Ukraine are false. He regards these claims as an attempt by external political forces to organize or to provoke a conflict on the border with Transnistria. PMR has appealed to Ukraine and OSCE to discuss the problem. Shevchuk comments "by a strange coincidence, the OSCE in Chisinau for some reason does not support our initiative. That is strange. If the international organization confirmed the lack of military preparations, I think the tension would be minimised". He has also reiterated that the PMR has not sent any representatives to the Donbass region.

Attempts at reunification of Moldova and Romania may lead to a final goodbye from Transnistria and Gagauzia. Rogozin has been reported stating the Russia will protect its citizens in PMR if Moldova repeats the 'Ukraine scenario'.

Citizens of Gagauzia have protested recent actions of the SBU. The SBU has arrested a number of young activists based on charges of treason and terrorism. A rally was held, attended by politicians, activists and parents of those arrested. In a poll, 98% of Gagauzians stated Gagauzia should become independent if Moldova reunites with Romania. Some analysts reported in Gagauzian press offer the view that Moscow may recognise the independence of PMR and Gagauzia if Moldova joins Romania. George Friedman, the president of STRATFOR, was in Chisinau recently promoting re-unification with Romania. He stated that it was 5 years too late for Moldova to join the EU. He claims that "Russia is a country in decline. Romania is on the rise" and that Moldovans "need shelter. Europe is an illusion. Russia is weak".

NATO eyes Transnistria
More blowback in the offing
Ukraine and Transnistria: A Troubled Borderland