March 8, 2018 – Fort Russ –
By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –
The situation in Transcarpathia, i.e., historical Carpathian Rus, is continuing to evolve in a complex and often explosive manner. Indeed, the situation in Transcarpathia has much in common with the overall situation in Ukraine.
On March 4th in the unofficial capital of the neighboring region of Galicia, Lvov, a torchlit march was held with slogans aimed against Poles, such as the main slogan chanted by Ukrainian Nazis – “Lvov is not for Polish lords!” Meanwhile, in Transcarpathia, the main target of Ukrainian Nazis is the Hungarian population which is actually indigenous to the region in contrast to the alien Western Ukrainian Galicians.
Last month, a Hungarian organization in Transcarpathia was attacked by unidentified persons twice. On the night of February 4th, the building of the Transcarpathian Hungarian Culture Society (KMKSZ) in Uzhgorod was hit with a Molotov cocktail. The next and most likely far from last arson attempt was on February 27th. The ensuing fire destroyed some furniture and burnt nearly 25 square meters of the office property. The Ukrainian police subsequently announced a search for the perpetrator(s) alleged to be foreign.
The Ukrainian leadership has since actively exploited this “foreign trace.” On March 5th, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin claimed a “Russian trace” in the attack on the Hungarian cultural institution, but no evidence of such has been presented.
The point, however, is not about evidence. Anti-Hungarian sentiments on the part of the Ukrainian leadership and Ukrainian Nazis are no secret. Nearly two years ago, on March 17th 2016, Uzhgorod saw a torchlit march under the slogan “Knives for Hungarians!” which was covered by official Ukrainian media. We’ve also covered aggressive acts against Hungary’s diplomatic mission that took place with strange passivity on the part of the Ukrainian police.
On March 6th, 2018, local Ukrainian-language media published a statement by the Transcarpathian Hungarian Cultural Society in which the KMKSZ demanded that a special OSCE monitoring mission be deployed to the region, i.e., one similar to that which is operating in Donbass.
A bit earlier, on March 5th, Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a similar demand. The ministry condemned the attack on the KMKSZ in Uzhgorod and called for an OSCE mission in Transcarpathia.
The attack on the Hungarian Culture Society, like the previous attacks on the Hungarian Consulate General in Beregov and the grenade launched at the Consulate General of Poland in Lutsk in March 2017 are portrayed by Ukrainian authorities as the omnipotent “hand of the Kremlin.” But even in this scenario there is a rather disappointing conclusion, namely, that Kiev is completely incapable of controlling its own territory, especially the most “correct” part of Ukraine, i.e., its most nationalistic, westernmost region.
Attacks on the social institutions of Hungarians, who are full Ukrainian citizens, and the assaults on Hungary and Poland’s diplomatic missions are reminiscent of the Ukrainian Nazis’ recent attack on the Rossotrudnichestvo building in Kiev, which was also done with the implicit compliance of law enforcement and special services. In our article on this incident, we concluded that this attack was needed to increase the tension between Russia and Ukraine in order to psychologically prepare Ukrainian public opinion for war with Russia.
Given that Ukrainian Nazis are mostly subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SBU, it is difficult to imagine such attacks on Polish and Hungarian social and state buildings taking place without the knowledge of Ukrainian law enforcement and intelligence.
Perhaps someone in the interior ministry and SBU would benefit from expanding the “Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone” to the western reaches of the country and from the imposition of international control over the area. In the very least, such is the logical chain of reaction which seems to be following these attacks. Seeing some kind of independent, “rogue” initiative in these incidents is great naivety.
Be that as it may, as long as Kiev is incapable, or worse, unwilling to ensure the security of its citizens and foreign countries’ diplomats, the imposition of external governance might just be what follows.
Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation.