Monday, October 27, 2014

Transcarpathia, Transnistria and Gagauzia SitRep 20 Oct - 26 Oct

by "Y"



Volunteers from the Tachyiv district have shipped ~ 2.5 tons of supplies to the front. These supplies intended for Aidar, the 128th Brigade and the 24th Brigade are described as 'humanitarian aid', and consist mainly of winter clothing along with a few specialist items such as night vision imaging devices. Some have raised concerns over these latter items as they appear to have been bought at 100,000 UAH, whereas the typical price is about 55,000 UAH. A group of supporters in the Vynograd area collected 68,000 UAH on behalf of Transcarpathian troops.. A group of Ukrainians in Austria, 'UKROP Austria' donated a van, which was repaired locally in Transcarpathia and used to transport supplies as far as Kiev. There it was supposed to be upgraded to a first aid vehicle with the provision of medical equipment.

Aidar have established a training base in the mountain village of Dymka in the Volovets district. This was originally a demonstrator base formed by Aidar members on their return from front. The new 4 hectare base is currently funded by donations. It has provided 3-4 weeks training for about 50 recruits who then go on to the front.

A small number of individuals have been reported wounded, one from Aidar, one from the 95th Brigade and several others. The action took place in the town of Shchastya 18 km north of Lugansk. An unspecified number of individuals from the 128th Mountain Infantry Brigade based in Transcarpathia were wounded when the unit came under fire in action at Debaltsevo. The Ukraine regime states that 2500 people are officially missing or held prisoner in the east. They state that 822 have been released so far in prisoner exchanges.

Rotation of the police units continues. On 20 October, 56 members of the 'Green Berets' border guard detachment returned from the front. There are still 170 at the front due for rotation. One Transcarpathian border police detachment is based around Artemovsk, manning block posts on the roads around and especially leading to Debaltsevo. This is an area of conflict ~ 40 km south east of Artemovsk. Small numbers of volunteers still move to and from the front. A group of four members of the Carpathian Sich (a founder group of the Pravy Sektor block) went to the front, whilst five ethnic Hungarians returned to their villages in Transcarpathia.

The Ukrainian internal committee investigating the Ilovaisk disaster have absolved the troops of the Prykarpattya battalion of all responsibility, laying the blame totally on the actions of Geletey and Murzenko.


Recently released figures indicate that the average monthly salary in Transcarpathia is 2731 UAH (~ 210$). The unemployment rate is said to be an incredibly low 1.3%.

The Hryvnia exchange rate is still stable at about 12.95 UAH to the USD. However, economic experts suggest the exchange rate is being held at this level until after the election when it may drop 20-30% to 17-18 or even 20 UAH/USD.

Weather reports predict the first snows of the winter will fall this week in the higher parts of Transcarpathia.

As ever, the gas problem is central. The Ukraine regime is looking at various methods of reducing gas demand, and is considering incentive plans to reduce consumption, to promote biodiesel as an alternative, to encourage energy conservation and tariff changes to force consumers to reduce the amount of gas used.

Ukraine has been importing gas via the reverse flow network in Transcarpathia, pumping the gas into underground storage in anticipation of high winter demand. The gas comes largely from Slovakia, with some from Poland. There are suggestions that the Ukrainian and Slovakian gas transport companies, Naftogas and Eustream may seek to work closely together or even merge. The head of Naftogas has called on Slovakia to end its contract with Gazprom, and renegotiate to allow for reverse flow, which is currently not allowed according to Gazprom. The Slovakian gas company plans to reduce the amount of gas it buys from Gazprom by 10-15%, and expects to pay a lower price. This is presumably some kind of wishful starting point for any new contract with Gazprom. In a statement that is unbelievably detached from reality, Marecek, the head of Slovakia's Eustream states that the European Union must oppose the construction of South Stream otherwise that would mean it does not recognise Ukraine as a reliable supplier of gas. The more obvious threat that it poses to Eustream's profits is not mentioned.

More realistically, the Prime Minister of Slovakia notes that Ukraine wants to pass the costs of its gas delivery and debts on to EU. He quite reasonably states that the world does not work that way. Even the President of Romania, who is trying to put the squeeze Moldova and the PMR, notes the problem. He states that "Romania is not against assisting Ukraine in payment of debts, but Ukraine should understand that it is a big country that itself needs to find solutions for survival, not asking all the time for money." Meanwhile in La-la land, Yatsenyuk claims that the Ukraine gas problem can only be solved once the reverse gas flow issue has been clarified. He presumably sees that Russia is no longer prepared to be a sucker, and is hoping to pass the buk over to the EU instead. In response, Barosso has stated that the EU can provide a maximum $1 billion bridge loan to cover part of the costs. The Ukraine gas disaster has clearly become the parcel in a game of 'pass the parcel', with no one wanting to be caught with it once the music stops.

Following the self-inflicted wound caused by destruction of coal mines in the east, Ukraine has resorted to importing coal from South Africa. I have seen no details of costings so far but I do hope everyone involved in the supply chain gets cash up front.

The big news politically is the election to be held on 26 October. This arose after parliament was dissolved following a failure to agree on the austerity measures necessary for the IMF loans and in preparation for EU association. The opposing parties have been neutralised by various means, primarily lustration.

One major event in Uzhgorod was the appearance of Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of Pravy Sektor at an extended Q&A session (links to videos are given in Resources). He caused a stir by appearing with an armed guard, who stationed themselves at doorways. He claimed this was in response to comments from the SBU that there would be actions against him. Of course, nothing untoward happened, so this becomes part of the normalisation process by which he appears in public surrounded by his praetorian guard. The Q&A was extended, ~30 minutes, but there was one particularly interesting comment. He stated that Crimea will return to Ukraine at some stage. He claims Putin has not taken the Crimean Tartars into account. Yarosh states that they can become a driving force of revolution. This is exactly what happened to Pravy Sektor. Members were trained in Poland and led the violence at the Maidan. To me, this suggests he is, and perhaps always has been, closely connected to those behind the Ukraine regime change. He is certainly a more marketable front for Pravy Sektor than the odious Sashko Bily (alias of Oleksandr Muzychko) who died in mysterious circumstances earlier in the year.

Legislation allowing troops at the front to vote failed to pass. However, they were allowed to vote via a loophole in which they were treated as immigrants. A rumour that males voting would be conscripted turned out to be just a rumour.

As hinted in a previous report, Orban's perceived rapprochement with Russia has not pleased the US. Sanctions have been imposed against six Hungarian officials, described as members of the Orban government or civil servants. These individuals are denied entry to the US, supposedly because of personal corruption. Retaliation for the rapprochement with Russia, or investigation of US companies tax affairs are more likely explanations.

Political experts predicted voter turnout in Transcarpathia would be less than 60%, typically around 50% for this kind of election. Polling stations nominally opened at 9 am and by 4 pm, the turnout in the five Transcarpathian districts varied from about 25% to nearly 48%, with an average of about 34%. Throughout the country, the turnout was greater in the west than in the east. The average for the eight oblasts forming west Ukraine was around 46% whilst it was only around 33% in the five eastern oblasts including Donetsk and Lugansk. Over all 196 electoral districts the turnout was highest in Kiev and lowest in Donetsk at about 26%. People in the areas of Donetsk and Lugansk east of the demarcation line were not taking part in the vote. Exit polls gave 24% of the vote to 'Bloc Poroshenko', 21% to the 'Popular Front' (Yatsenyuk), 'Self Help' (deputy leader Semen Semnchenko) with 13%, 'Opposition Bloc' (Boyko) with 8%, 'Radical Party' (Lyashko) with 7%, 'Svoboda' (Tyagnybok) with 6% and 'Batkivshchyna' (Tymoshenko) with 6%. Pravy Sektor gained about 2.4% of votes at exit polls. Of these seven crossing the 6% threshold, six are pro-Europe/America and one (Opposition Bloc) is possibly 'pro-Russian'. These are results obviously subject to revision with the actual and final count of votes. The ultimate power structure will be governed by the allegiance of the large number of 'self identified' candidates who probably align with Pravy Sektor or Svoboda, as half the seats come from party blocs and half from individuals.

An unknown number of those voting chose to invalidate their votes, voting for Putin, Novorossia, DNR and LNR for example. Their exit poll statements are not noted.

The last word on the election lies with the inimitable Ukrainian journalist, Anatoly Sharii and his response to a program describbing voter turnout on Kolomoisky's TV channel .... 99.90%!

The linked map claiming to show activity in the east represents the propaganda the average Ukrainian is exposed to. It is mainly propaganda by omission. The map shows no weapons west of the demarcation line, only to the east and in Russia. Hence the claim that all killing and damage is the result of RUssia and the pro-Russian forces.

The election day propaganda was not unexpected. Firstly, the SBU detained two men in Transcarpathia, one described as Russian, the other as 'from Crimea'. They were described as a 'sabotage group' in the press. They were actually tourists visiting local residents. The SBU released them without charge and with little fanfare.

Secondly, Poroshenko paid a flying visit to Kramatorsk, purportedly to verify the voting process in person and to 'protect the rights of troops to vote'. It didn't seem to do him much good at the end of the day.

Separatism in Transcarpathia appears to have been heavily clamped down by the SBU and possibly local Pravy Sektor members. However, in Lviv, the European Galician Assembly has intensified its activities. It skirts away from explicit separatism, but states that it would be happy to get into the EU without Ukraine. Its immediate aims are to unite at least three areas of Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk. The stated goal of the organisation is to return Galicia to Europe. It is another matter as to whether Europe would be really happy to have a hard-core Galician state as a member.

Yarosh Q&A video links:

Yarosh in Uzhgorod 1
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 2
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 3
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 4
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 5
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 6
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 7
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 8
Yarosh in Uzhgorod 9

Transnistria (aka PMR) and Gagauzia


The electrical machinery plant Electromash has been accredited by Gazprom as a source of replacement pump motors needed for the renovation of the Gazprom pipeline network.

The PMR is hoping to transform its current tax system into a classical tax system, with taxation of income, the property of legal entities and the imposition of a value-added tax. The reform is seen as part of the solution to the problem of the budget deficit which exceeds 40%. This arises partly from the economic blockade imposed by Moldova and Ukraine with consequent loss of sales.

The gas contract involving Moldova and Gazprom is to be renegotiated early next year. In spite on Moldova's actions against PMR, it expects a price cut for gas supply next year. The repayment of historic gas debts totally $23 million is also part of the negotiation.

The attempts to coerce PMR away from Russia into Moldova continue. The possibility of Moldova uniting with Romania or joining NATO has led Lavrov to remind everyone about the context for the status negotiations. He notes that 'all agreed that if Moldova loses its sovereignty and gets annexed by another country, or if Moldova changes its military-political non-bloc status, the people of Transnistria have the right to decide their future independently' This is a warning that Russia may recognise Transnistria should either of these events occur. He also stated the he hoped Moldova would not interfere with the economic affairs of PMR. The Memorandum of 1997 established the right to freedom of economic activity, which means unimpeded trade and investment ties with Russia and Europe. Lavrov also claims the US has usurped the position of head of OSCE mission, the mediation role in the '5+2' talks. He states that 'one American goes, another American comes in'.

Ukraine has joined the EU in placing visa restrictions for several former leaders of PMR. Lavrov and the PMR government consider this an act of intimidation and a restriction on free travel. Ukraine is part of '5+2' group trying to resolve the status issue. Its role is supposed to be that of guarantor, along with Russia, the OSCE is supposed to be a mediator, whilst the EU and the US are supposedly mere observers.

Recently. the Moldovan constitutional court has declared as unconstitutional any party whose goal is not European integration. Lavrov has rightly described this as outrageous and undemocratic. This outcome in the Moldovan court is not surprising given that six of the seven judges in the constitutional court are citizens of Romania.

In recent negotiations with PMR about the free trade zone, Luke Devine, the EU negotiator issued an ultimatum that "We must bear in mind that in late 2015, when the Transnistrian authorities decide not to apply the DCFTA (deep and comprehensive free trade agreement), Transnistria will lose preferences with largest trading partner. So Tiraspol need to decide whether to follow its policies on the economic interests of the population and business, or to stand in the ideological position". Gagauzia is in a similar position. The EU Free Trade Zones are subject to variation when convenient. Moldova currently has quota allowing it to export 80,000 tons of apples into EU free of duty. The European FTA is clearly a means of making weaker smaller countries chose between the EU and the Customs Union. This in turn is a means of reducing the potential for free trade with Russia. European integration has clearly been co-opted by US-UK interests into a mechanism for reducing the influence of Russia.

In the forthcoming Moldovan elections, workers abroad have the right to vote. Moldova is reducing the number of voting stations in Russia. There are about 500,000 Moldovans working in Russia with 15 polling stations in contrast to Italy where 250,000 Moldovan migrants have access to 25 stations. The Moldovan government plans to reduce the number of stations in Russia from 15 to 5, with 2 in St. Petersburg and 3 in Moscow. This will make it difficult for Moldovans in Russia, possibly perceived to be pro-Russia, from voting.

Poroshenko has banned the use of the term 'TMR' (Transnistrian Moldovan Republic). He claims there is only the Transnistrian section of the Ukraine / Moldova border. This really does not fit in with Ukraine's supposed role as guarantor in the '5+2' negotiations over the status of PMR.

Romania has stated it needs to increase its presence in Gagauzia, as the prolonged exposure to Russian TV and media gives a false impression of Europe. Such control, of course, has nothing to do with maintaining and extending Romanian ownership and control of the media.

Russia has included meats products from Moldova in its list of sanctions. The claim is that they do not meet Russian safety standards and often include inaccurate veterinary certificates. The free trade agreement with Moldova was terminated earlier in the year, so the zero rate of duty on imports of agricultural products was abolished. Moldova regards these actions as political rather than legitimate economic responses.

Gagauzia is considering establishing a private broadcasting council to allow it to control media relay irrespective of Chisinau. The Moldovan government wants to reduce the transmission of Russian media as part of the program of mandating European integration.