Monday, October 20, 2014

Transcarpathia, Transnistria and Gagauzia SitRep 06 Oct - 12 Oct



Some of the injured and wounded ATO forces reported last week have been identified and reported in local Transcarpathian press. One ATO action against the Novorossian forces resulted in the death of one individual and the wounding of six, one seriously. The dead man has been identified as Major Victor Semental. The man seriously injured has died of his wounds. He has been identified as Robert Petrovich, 24 years, married with a 2 month child. He has been buried at Volonvaha, about halfway between Donetsk and Mariupol.

A ceremony was held at Vynogradiv to honour three Transcarpathians described as 'soldier-mercenaries', aged 21-22 years. They are undergoing rehabilitation after being wounded near Lugansk.

The Aidar Battalion lost 14 at Lischiansk, including one fighter from Transcarpathia. Of these, eight were killed, including the person from Transcarpathia and 6 were captured. These losses have led to recriminations from the troops. The losses were blamed on the actions of their officers, specifically the battalion commander Sergey Melnichuk, who was reportedly more concerned with campaigning for the election, leaving a 'protege' to order and plan the attack. Other complaints relate to the lack of official recognition as combatants and the lack of support for families of the killed and wounded. A translation of their protest delivered at a press conference in Uzhgorod can be found here. Some of these individuals are possibly active in training other volunteers at a training camp established at an unnamed farm in Transcarpathia.

In the past week the remains of another 21 unidentified ATO fighters have been buried at Krasnopolsky cemetery, Odessa. This is in addition to the 116 unknown already buried there.

Rotation of police officers to and from the east continues. Their primary duty seems to be as guards on block posts, sometimes close to the front line. One individual from a group of five recently returned after a month at the front related that the medics of the troops relied on local residents for medical support. Four police officers were awarded diplomas for their part in 'repelling Russian exploration' around Mariupol. A further 15 traffic police have departed for the front. A total of 400 police officers have spent periods of duty at the front.

A group of 50 Green berets has returned with no losses after serving 3 months of duty around Kharkiv and Lugansk oblasts. Either they were very skillful, very lucky or possibly based away from main zones of combat in this area.

The Transcarpathian 128th Brigade is reportedly active around Debaltseve. The area is reported to be quiet, with the exception of the incursions by small reconnaissance groups, some of which are described as being unarmed. This seems to bear little relation to the action going on in this area.

The casualty figures for the Ukrainian forces are not clear. One indicator for a very large number of real casualties is the need to send wounded abroad for treatment and rehabilitation. Some have been sent to Croatia, and Hungary has offered to treat some in Budapest. I believe that at least one of the Baltic states, possibly Latvia, has also taken in Ukrainian wounded.

The main economic activity reported relates to attempts to control the Hryvnia exchange rate. The official exchange rate is 12.97-13.13 UAH/USD whilst the black market rate is 13.89-14.14 UAH/USD. In Transcarpathia, officials have caught 15 small scale operations for illicit currency exchange. The amounts involved are small, typically a few hundred USD, so this has no effect on the actual economy, serving just as a deterrent to the small scale operators. In contrast, the major Ukrainian banks have sold 100 million USD in one day in an attempt to stabilise the exchange rate. There are plans to issue bonds for another 200 million USD.

Inflation is running fairly high in Ukraine. Transcarpathia has the lowest regional rate at 2.3% for the previous month. The year to date inflation figure is reported to be 16.6% against an expected rate of 18.4%. Transcarpathia salaries have seen a drop of 10.4% to the end of August compared to the year before, when inflation is taken into account.

The authorities have made a concession to those individuals supporting the troops by providing equipment. The customs duty for items brought in by individuals intended for troops at front has been reduced. Given the dire economic situation, it remains to be seen how much of this material ends up in a general black market.

Energy supplies remain a problem. One solution has been promotion of gas conservation. In Transcarpathia the use of wood as fuel is being encouraged. Approximately 188 villages in Transcarpathia are not connected to the gas distribution network. There is a shortage of liquefied gas for these customers. A reduction in subsidies to lower consumption customers will disproportionately affect poorer customers.

Some figures have been produced showing the proportion of bills paid. It is claimed that Transcarpathia has paid 100% of its energy bills whilst oblasts in the west and central Ukraine have paid between 61% and 76% of the bills. The lowest payment rates come from Odessa (31%), Donetsk (27%), Dnipropetrovsk (22%), Lugansk (15%) and Crimea (11%). Of these, the surprises are Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk.

There have been unconfirmed reports of a fourth wave of mobilisation in other parts of Ukraine. The details relate to just a few individuals so the notices may actually be delayed third phase notifications rather than a widespread fourth phase.

The Lustration Law signed by Poroshenko may affect up to one million people in Ukraine. In Transcarpathia, 39 officials have been affected so far, mostly heads of administrative groups and sometimes their deputy. The local press reports that 19 individuals 'resigned on their own' and the rest are affected by the new law.

It is no longer news that the most prominent Transcarpathian in the government, Valeriy Geletey has been demoted from Minister of Defence. He is now the Head of State Security.

The US / NGO nexus may be placing another tentacle around Transcarpathia. Dmitry Turzanski, the chief editor of Mukachevo News, which prominently promotes one of the Baloha brothers, has become the head of the Transcarpathian branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine. Members of this NGO receive training from USAID and OSCE, ostensibly in 'voting transparency'. Given the close link between USAID and the CIA, and the latter's interest in media control and manipulation, Mr Turzanski may meet up with some 'interesting' people.

Recently Hungary has raised difficulties in relation to the reverse supply of gas to Ukraine, with Orban rightly pointing out that Hungary's needs must come first. The prediction that Orban was on his way to being persona non-grata may be correct. There are reports of US sanctions against unnamed Hungarian individuals and officials, possibly restricting entry of such individuals into the US. This is seen as punishment for an apparent rapprochement with Russia over the gas issue. Another factor may be the investigation by Hungarian tax authorities of some US firms operating in Hungary.

Kiev Kev and his buddies continue to delight. They claim that Russian mercenaries increasingly less willing to fight, as a result of heavy losses imposed by the ATO forces. Specific reports include the death of one Chechen fighter and three Russian military officers. One of the RUssian military officers is named as General Sergei Andreichenko. In addition, the removal of the [non-existent ed.] Russian forces is not happening.

On more serious note, a couple of very slick propaganda movies have appeared. There is obviously some serious money going on in an attempt to wash over the Nazi undertones of the Ukraine regime. The first, Where is Ukraine? will be shown in schools. The second one is Every one of us. This seems to be the work of a Marc Raymond Wilkins. It is worth printing his self-justification in full:

"Marc Raymond Wilkins Hello Konstantin! I am Marc Wilkins, the director of the army-film. What you are writing above is... (trying to find a kind word...) ... very wrong. I directed this video for free, I payed [sic], from my own personal money, a couple of thousand dollars into the budget, to make it. We made it, because we believe in independence, freedom and unity of Ukraine. We understand that Putin is afraid of a nation which seeks true freedom. Putin is afraid of a Maidan in Moscow, thats [sic] why he and his people are trying everything to humiliate the tragic maidan-victory and the new economy of Ukraine. I directed and co-produced this video because Ukraine become a second home, since working there for over eight years. Konstantin, your words are full of propaganda-hate. Think about it."

When I see the man loading the Su-25 rocket launcher (0:13), I think about it all right. I think about Inna Kukuruza, shredded by one of those rockets as she was standing outside an office in Lugansk.

A useful background reader on the nature of the gas distribution system in Ukraine.

Transnistria (aka PMR) and Gagauzia
The economies of Moldova and PMR are both troubled. PMR is affected by the blockade from Ukraine and Moldova, which can be seen as part of a plan of action between Ukraine, Moldova and Romania on one hand and Russia on the other. This three-pronged alliance is now omnipresent in relation to Russia and its interests in this region.

Moldova has been hit by reverse sanctions from Russia which is still its main export customer in spite of a 25.6% decrease in trade. Romania is Moldova's second largest customer. Moldovan apple growers are seeking compensation from the Moldovan government, and their position has been compounded an increase in yield of 15% over last year. Some reports suggest that Moldovan apples have been re-routed through Belarus in an attempt to bypass sanctions.

Foreign trade turnover in PMR amounted to 1.7 billion USD for the first nine months of this year, almost 19% more than the same period last year. A significant part of this is due to the resumption of activity at the Moldovan metallurgical plant located in PMR. Its major trading partner is Russia. In contrast more than 50% of exports from Gagauzia now go to the EU, as a consequence of decreased sales to Russia and Ukraine.

Inflation remains low in PMR at 0.77% for the year to date January - September 2014. The inflation figure for the same period in the previous year was 2.38%. Whilst this does not look worrying, the state has a budget shortfall of ~22%. This has been handled by reducing the working week for state employees to four days at 80% of nominal salary. This legislation is due for renewal at the beginning of November.

Energy problems in Ukraine impinge on Moldova. Coal shortages in Ukraine allow it to produce only ~70% of the electricity it needs. It has cut electricity exports to the EU and stopped completely supplies to Belarus (which accounted for ~20 million USD lost income for the month). Moldova produces only about 20-25% of its own electricity, the rest is supplied from Ukraine and the hydro electric power plant at Dubasari in the PMR.

In order to cope with energy supply fluctuations and uncertainties, Moldova has a plan to create an underground gas storage facility at the port of Giurgiulesti to store gas during summer for use in winter. This project is supported by the EU and by the US. Financial support will come from the World Bank and the IMF. The association of a poor country like Moldova and the World Bank/IMF is not good for ordinary Moldovans. They will pay dearly for any loans long after the politicians involved have moved on.


There has been no progress on the JCC path to normalisation of the status of PMR. Moldova unilaterally raises issues outside of the scope of the agenda. One example is an insistence of free movement of people across the security zone separating Moldova and PMR. It does not consider free movement of goods and services, by which it maintains its blockade of PMR. The Moldovan government has also stated it will not agree to an airport at Tiraspol. If this were to go ahead, the it would break Moldovan control over access to and from the PMR.

Moldova has also raised the issue of the status of the peacekeeping mission, presumably in an attempt to remove Russian troops to make way for a takeover of PMR. The Russia Foreign Minister has clearly stated that the mandate of the peace keeping mission is not exhausted, and there is no need to remove Russian troops. The Russian contingent of ~400 troops is based on the PMR side of the security zone between Moldova and PMR. A normal troop rotation for part of the contingent is timed for 17-23 October.

It should be noted that PMR tried to split from Moldova prior to the fall of the USSR. This was based on fears that Moldova would rejoin Romania. Those concerns are still valid, perhaps even more so, given the resurgence of the Romanian plan to acquire Moldova. Both sides came close to signing an agreement in 2003 but this was averted by direct intervention of Brussels and Washington.

Recently reports indicate that Moldova has denied entry to 30 unidentified individuals, presumed to be Russians, and possibly military related to the Russian contingent of the peace keeping force. Moldova has also banned three specific individuals, one associated with the PMR and the other two with Gagauzia. One individual with PMR conn3ctions is named as Vasily Kasirin, a member of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies. He was involved in meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minster of PMR and Head of an NGO in Tiraspol aimed at strengthening relations between the Russian Federation and PMR.

The well-funded program promoting unification of Moldova and Romania (effectively absorption of Moldova into greater Romania) continues. Romania sources promote the idea that the individuals expelled from Moldova are agents of the FSB.

An unconfirmed report suggests that 30 billion USD supposedly stolen in Russia has been laundered through Moldovan banks. Moldova only has two solvent banks, whilst the PMR has seven active banks and two that are inactive.

Moldova, in common with Ukraine, has resorted to banning Russian TV media broadcasts in Moldova. Russia regards this as political censorship. Moldova claims it is to protect itself against unfair competition.

Romania, in its paranoia, pulls the 'poor defenceless Romania surrounded by hostile states' card. It has produced a map showing itself surrounded by red states - which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. I guess we are supposed to believe that all these states are controlled by 'Teh Evul Russia' (also coloured red) which just wants to 'Wipe Romania Off The Map'®. Poor PMR does not even get a mention - it appears to have been wiped off the map.

The two other Russian citizens mentioned above were declared undesirable by the Moldovan government. Their crime was to take part in round table discussions, held in Chisinau 9-13 October, to discuss economic aspects of Eurasian integration of the Republic of Moldova. One of them, Andrei Medvedev was said to be an agent of the FSB. In August 2013, members from their institute, Polycontact, conducted a survey in Gagauzia. This survey found that 65.1% of respondents were in favour of entry into the Customs Union, whilst only 6.4% favoured entry into the EU. A referendum held in February 2014 reported that 97% voted against joining the EU and for joining the CU. It should be born in mind that Moldova is a poor country, and relies on remittances from migrant Moldovans for a significant part of its GDP. The majority numerically work in Russia and these provide the greatest proportion of income. Moldova's actions appear to be another case of a government acting against its own interests, or more specifically, against the interests of its people.

A short essay on the supposed parallels between Novorossia and PMR The situation in Donbass: between Transnistria and Beirut"

A summary of articles from the PMR press The Russians will soon have to tighten their belts: overview of the Transnistrian media

Analyst view of the implication of actions against Lukoil, preparation for reorganisation of energy distribution in favour of US interests. Vague prospects of the Transnistrian-Russian energy - Executive summary - Yes, it is all about energy, or rather control of profits from energy. Lukoil has concessions to resource deposits in the Black Sea. The Romanians have stated they would like to nationalise Lukoil. No doubt if this were to happen, the nationalised entity would be subsequently privatised for the benefit of US corporations. The US could deploy ships in the Black Sea to protect these future assets [sure, there's a treaty limiting deployment, but what's a treaty? It's just a piece of paper]. However, there is a saying that a navy has just two types of vessel; submarines and targets. This would be particularly true in the Black Sea. The planned placement of an Aegis-type system of radar and missile launchers in Romania may be a less vulnerable way of protecting these potential future assets.

Quote of the Day:

#NAF ?#?Motorola? says he doesn't need night vision goggles. 2 cups of 'magic mushroom' tea and he sees bright neon-red men in dark.