Monday, October 13, 2014

Transcarpathia, Transnistria and Gagauzia SitRep 06 Oct - 12 Oct

by "Y"



Specific figures for the Transcarpathian contribution to the fighting in the east are starting to appear. Mukachevo news reports that more than 3000 local people are serving at the eastern front. These figures, starting from March 2014, include 742 troops, presumably members of the 128th Mountain Infantry Brigade, along with 217 border guards from the city of Mukachevo and a further 153 from the town of Chop. Small numbers of police have volunteered to go to the front. Recently 11 police officers from Tyachiv and another group of 6 traffic police based in Uzhgorod have rotated back from the front. Some of the police appear to have served as block post guards near Artemovsk, and were housed in residences belonging to the local medical school. At least 24 school buses have been commandeered over this time to transport troops to and from the front. Unsurprisingly, some of these buses have been destroyed at the front, leaving local children without transport to and from school.

Small scale collections still run to generate funds for supplies for the troops.

The most recent local summary casualty figures indicate 24 troops have died with a further 54 wounded. There are now daily reports of losses. A group of 10 soldiers from the Aidar battalion were reported dead on 6 October. These were named individuals buried in a cemetery at Starobelsk, 80 km north of Lugansk. One individual came from Transcarpathia, 36 year old Yuri King. This group died somewhere on the road between the villages of Metallist and Happiness up to 20 km north of Lugansk. On 7 October, 2 soldiers from the 128th Mountain Infantry battalion were reported killed. The death of 3 Ukrainian soldiers with a further 12 wounded was reported on 8 October. Another report on 9 October mentioned the death of one Ukrainian with four casualties in the east. On 11 October, 1 Transcarpathian soldier was killed and five others injured, one seriously, in an ambush of the two cars they were travelling in. The dead soldier was described as a conscript.

A total of 1336 Ukrainian military are reported to have been killed since the beginning of the military operations in the east. More than half of these were so badly mutilated in the battles that the remains were beyond recognition. The Ukrainians are supposedly trying to use DNA analysis to identify them.

Doctors treating the wounded and those returning from the front claim that about 40% of returning soldiers suffer from PTSD. Recovery is very variable and can take a long time, up to 30 years.

Following the signing of the Lustration law, there has been a mass layoff of more than one hundred high rank officers, typically generals and colonels.


Currency outflow is still a serious problem. There has been a clampdown on illegal currency traders in the Transcarpathian area. It is claimed that such illicit transfers undermine the economic status of the state, undermine the national currency exchange rate and sow panic amongst the citizens.

In reality, the national economy is in dire straits, and the Kiev local government may default on repayment of bonds priced at 1.125 billion US$. The credit rating agency Fitch has already downgraded Kiev to CCC status (Ukraine itself is rated BBB). If the bonds are not repaid by 9 October, Kiev will be downgraded to D, a state of technical default.

Price controls established 10 years ago limiting the profits on bread, meat and cereals have been abandoned. The Transcarpathian road transport lobby is pressing for an increase in tariffs for road transport. It claims that Transcarpathia has the lowest tariff which no longer covers expenses.

Transcarpathian residents have also protested against a government requirement to use state banks for salaries of those serving in the ATO. This requirement has arisen because of alleged corruption in some private banks.

On 10 October, financial figures indicated that Ukraine's total external debt exceeded 102% of GDP. More importantly, the direct guaranteed debt component exceeded 68% of GDP. This latter value is particularly significant as some bond payments due to Russia have a clause allowing for immediate payment should government debt exceed 60% of GDP. I expect there will be some shenanigans to try to avoid or even cancel this repayment requirement.


The upcoming elections place some emphasis on energy issues. The Transcarpathian politicians propose energy conservation methods and targets and welcome assistance from Hungarian government sources. Yet more illicit taps of oil pipelines flowing through the region have been detected and reported in the press. This presumably is intended to act as a deterrent.

The reverse gas flow situation is still volatile. The flow from Slovakia in October to date has reduced 10% from the levels available in September. Hungary has reiterated its position that it must look after its own customers first. It hopes to be able to restore reverse flow from January 1 2015. Apparently, Russia has taken an option on one of the four natural gas reservoirs in Hungary for its own use. It is filling that reservoir in order to maintain supplies to Europe should there be problems upstream in Ukraine (failure to pay, illicit extraction, sabotage?).

As part of the ongoing gas supply negotiations involving Russia, Ukraine and the EU, the Russia negotiator has stressed that Ukraine's debts must be paid, Ukraine will be supplied on a pre-payment basis and the offered price of $385 provides a discount. The Stockholm arbitration panel should provide a definitive decision in early 2015.


The Transcarpathian mobilisation authorities claim to have recognised and responded to earlier protests by the mothers / wives of Hungarian conscripts. The claim is that all recruits will now be for purely local service, with 268 individuals serving in five territorial defence units, concerned with local border security and prevention of sabotage.


Given the approaching election, it is not surprising that numerous surveys have been carried out and reported. The surveys fall into two groups i) those concerned with attitudes to Donbass and ii) those concerned with the outcome of the election. The surveys are ill-defined as reported. None sate explicitly the questions asked. Some reports give information on sample size, demographics and survey type. This lack of background requires the results of the surveys to be treated with caution.

One survey commissioned by the Democratic Initiatives Fund looked at attitudes to the position in Donbass. The survey sample covered individuals from Donbass and from the rest of Ukraine. No other information was reported. The survey repeated that of the respondents in Donbass, 42% wanted to remain within Ukraine with autonomy from Kiev, 26% wanted Donbass to be totally independent, with 16% supporting independence aligned with Russia. Only 7% of respondents from Donbass wanted to revert to the prior status. The residents elsewhere in Ukraine produced different answers. 45.5% wanted the situation to revert to what it was, 32.5% agreed with the idea of allowing Donbass more autonomy, 7% supported full independence and only 5% supported independence aligned with Russia.

In another Transcarpathian survey of 451 Uzhgorod residents questioned on the street in the period 15th to 25th September, 80% agreed that Donbass should not have special status and favoured a united Ukraine.

Several surveys look report on possible outcomes of the election. One survey in Transcarpathia looking at voter intentions reported 26.8% would vote for the Bloc Petro Poroshenko. The two next most significant parties were reported to be the 'Self Help' party and Lyashko's Radical Party. Voting proportions were not given for the latter parties.

A survey carried out by the Transcarpathian Hungarian Institute covering 400 people from 71 sites in the period 1 - 5 October claimed that 41.8% supported the Bloc Petro Poroshenko, 3.5% supported the Popular Front, 2% supported the Fatherland Party and 2% supported the Radical Party. 10% responded that they were undecided on how they would vote and 15.8% responded that they may not vote at all. The remainder presumably intended to vote in low proportions for the other parties or for the self-identified candidates. The self-identified candidates seem to be mainly Pravi Sektor / Svoboda representatives. This seems to be the mechanism by which these parties gain disproportionate power within government given their limited public support

In terms of the election itself, local Pravi Sektor supporters intend to operate mobile group attempting to detect dishonest voting on election day. The will photograph voters presumably to deter multiple voting. It may have the effect of deterring voters opposed to them from voting at all.


The news is depressingly full of bizarre, unsupported or unbelievable claims regarding Donbass, Russia and the PMR. The level of lying, through malicious or through ignorance, is incredibly wearing. If only there was an equivalent of 'Baghdad Bob', who was at least funny in his earnestness and desperation. My nomination for 'Kiev Kev' would be Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman for the Information Centre of the National Security and Defence Centre. Another candidate would be Dmitry Tymchuk, the Kiev Post's military expert. However, I bow before The Kremlin Stooge for his concise and pithy epithet How Full of Shit Would You Have To Be, To Be More Full of Shit than Dmitry Tymchuk?

Lysenko claims that Ukrainian equipment held in Crimea has been supplied the separatists in Donbass. Those separatists are claimed to be deliberately killing civilians in order to instill hatred and that Ukrainian forces will not attack populated areas. All he needs do to achieve genuine 'Baghdad Bob', sorry 'Kiev Kev', status is to declare 'victory is ours'.

In contrast, Tymchuk seems to specialise in seeing Russians here, there and everywhere. On 6 October, he is reported as stating that new Russian armoured vehicles arrived at Donetsk airport and that there are an estimated 3000 Russian troops in Donbass.

Unknown reporters from Radio Liberty come a close third in the sweepstakes. In a perfect expression of historical ignorance, they claim the Ukrainians at Donetsk airport should be equated with the defenders of the WW II Brest fortress. The incident occurred during Operation Barbarossa when the Red Army defended the site against the onslaught of the Wehrmacht. This battle became a symbol of Soviet resistance. I guess this is just confirmation that the CIA geniuses and proteges running the liberty show are a few pages short of a two page historical narrative. They also managed to find the time to organise an international satirical cartoon competition aimed at lampooning Putin, Lavrov and Churkin. This is the prize effort. If I was an American tax payer, I would ask for my money back.

It seems like the Blame Game is underway regarding what will go down as the Ukrainian military's greatest victory. Poroshenko has awarded Heletey the highest military honour - the Order of the Boot, first class. Heletey comes from Transcarpathia and his fellow compatriots also share the honours. The retreat of the Carpathian Battalion is deemed to have caused a domino effect at Ilovaisk. The 326 troops arrived at the front in May, and left in protest about the lack of rotation. They were ordered 3 times to stop on their departure from the front, refusing on all occasions. The troops were described by the Ukrainian Prosecutor as "being under Ambrosia" (a delicate way of saying drunk as a lord).

The obsession with the use of children for propaganda purposes continues. One couple have dressed their 3 year old child as a romantic Cossack complete with 'herring' hair style since he was one year old. It is another amusing irony the Russian Cossacks joined the PMR forces to defend Transnistria against the onslaught of the Moldovan forces.

The brave boys of Pravi Sektor helped by spending time in a Transcarpathian boarding school advocating the importance of being a citizen and a patriot, and demonstrating weapon handling to small boys.

The abilities of the Ukrainian military have been recognised by representatives of the Latvian military, consisting of 4600 professionals and 8000 militia members. The Ukrainian national guard is praised for being "highly motivated", but chided for their "inappropriately high loss". Maybe the Ukrainian military could improve their skills and aim for an appropriately high loss?


During a visit of Beregovo politicians to Hungary, the Hungarian Foreign Minister Istvan Mikola commented on the importance of rapprochement between Ukraine and Hungary. He also referred to the importance of "national reunification" of Hungarians across the border.


Nuland demands war

A rare moment of truth from a US politician with Condoleeza Rice channeling Madeleine Albright. The destruction of European economy is a price worth paying. This video outdoes Bush with his comments that 'this sucker [the US economy] could go down' if the bailout scam legislation wasn't passed and exemplifies his statement that 'the American way of life is not up for negotiations'. In short this video is a keeper.

Transnistria (aka PMR) and Gagauzia


A recent attempt to raise finance through the issue of short term bonds had some success. The issue raised about 66% of the target, realising about 100 million roubles.

Moldova continues to obstruct progress towards normalisation. Plans to extend an existing railway traffic agreement have been deferred until December. The PMR government claims that Moldova tries to use disagreements between Moldova and Russia to avoid making progress, effectively blackmailing PMR.


The shortage of coal for generating electricity has forced Ukraine to cut back on exports. It has reduced the amount of electricity exported to Belarus, as it can't reduce the supply to Moldova without affecting the Odessa region.


The major change politically is the emergence of a clearly coordinated policy between Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, squeezing PMR in an attempt to negatively influence Russia. This 'Triple Alliance' seems to reflect a resurrection of the US designed GUAM scenario (GUAM - Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) in a new format (see resources).

Moldova and Romania has also opened concerted attacks against Lukoil, a Russian company providing fuel in both countries. The Romanian authorities have ordered the halting of production at the Ploetski refinery. This threatens the whole supply chain. The Romanian claim amounts to about 250 million Euro, of which 112 million Euro represent alleged tax evasion and money laundering. Lukoil considers these charges to be without foundation. Given Lukoil has operated in Romania for 15 years without any trouble, the timing of this action is 'interesting'. Purely by coincidence no doubt, the regulatory authority in Moldova has threatened to revoke Lukoil-Moldova's licence. The basis for this is alleged violations of the methodology of price calculation identified during inspections. These deviations supposedly occurred between 2011 and 2013, and resulted in higher prices in that period. The regulator has given Lukoil 14 days to resolve the issue. Lukoil is the largest supplier of diesel in Moldova (32% of the market), and is the second largest supplier for gasoline (32%) and LPG (26%). The actions in Romania mean that Lukoil-Moldova is unable to purchase supplies from there. The alternative sources require import by sea, which take longer and are more expensive. The closure of the refinery has implications for 3500 workers employed in Romania. Given the uncertainty, Lukoil has stopped production until a permit is issued specifically allowing production. Lukoil has also warned that these government actions will have implications for future investment. As usual, the unintended consequences of the their actions seems to have taken the Moldovan and Romanian governments by surprise.

Whilst Romania, Ukraine and Moldova appear to be acting according to the wishes of their US master, Romania at least appears to be exploiting this newly gained power for its own purposes. There appears to be a large, well financed push towards a merger between Moldova and Romania. One prominent player in this game is an outfit called Action 2012, an NGO (surprise, surprise) formed from the merger of 30 independent NGOs. This outfit resorts to predictable PR marketing actions such as a recent protest in Bucharest promoting solidarity with 'Bessarabia' - the Romanian term for Moldova. Other actions include flash mob activities promoting the reintegration of Moldova and Romania as the quickest route to membership of NATO and the EU. Cioroianu, a former Foreign Minister of Romania, claims that Moldova has to chose between PMR and Brussels. He also trots out the US-oriented theme that "Russia without Ukraine is not an empire but only regional power"

In a further outburst of insanity, Romania has demanded that Russia should provide guarantees of teaching of the Romanian language in Transnistria. By insanity, I do not refer to the teaching of Romanian or any other language in PMR schools, but the idea that, somehow or other, Russia should control the PMR education system.


One story that does not go away relates to 30 people supposedly denied entry into PMR by the Moldovan authorities. The reasons for this action are not clear, nor is it clear who these individuals are. The various media outlet have transformed these individuals into Russian soldiers, who are then transformed into Green Men and that is then transformed into evidence for intended invasion of Ukraine. I know that Russian solders are good, but 30 soldiers form an invasion force? That is impressive. One hypothesis is that these individuals are actually Russian peace keeping forces rotating into PMR. The Moldovan actions allow Russian peace keepers out but prevent their replacements from entering PMR which over time would result in the removal of Russian protection for the PMR state.


The trending meme is 'X is the second Y'. For example, Gagauzia has been described as potentially the second Donbass in which the Moldovan regime is persecuting Gagauzian opponents. Donbass has been called the second Transnistria whilst Tymoshenko claims Crimea is the second Transnistria. Where will it end? (this is a rhetorical question).


More detailed and interesting works on the Triple Alliance

Ring around PMR is compressed

Triple Alliance of Romania, Moldova and Ukraine against Russia and Transnistria

Union of Romania, Moldova and Ukraine - resuscitation of GUAM in the new format

In contrast a short travelogue of someone visiting PMR for the first time.

Preconceptions of a visitor