Russian blogger Alexander Rychkov, who has been in Transcarpathia several times, in an accessible manner described the sentiments, situation and events that have happened in the region in recent weeks. We publish it without edits and cuts (Alexander’s LJ username – rychkoff).
"A few days ago in the Russian segment of the Internet, users were spreading information about the beginning of the uprising in Transcarpathia and even opening of the "second front"(!) in Ukraine (like this one), some "analysts" gave a bunch of opinions on this matter, and Mr. Petro Hetsko, who calls himself none other than the Prime Minister of the "Republic of Subcarpathian Rus" (formerly "people’s mayor of Transcarpathia"), allegedly even gave a detailed interview about this (but I could not find it online).
In fact, as I realized by studying various sources on the subject, a few people not only in Russia, but also in Ukraine outside the region have any idea about the real situation in Transcarpathia.
Basically, there are two stereotypical and polar perspectives. The first one says that since Transcarpathian region is located in western Ukraine, it is the same "Bandera" region as Galicia, the second one – that it is the place where local Slavic population – Rusyns – fight vigorously against Ukrainianization and for the creation of the national autonomy.
Actually, none of these points of view has nothing to do with reality, so it is worth to shed light on what really happens in the westernmost region of Ukraine in light of recent events.
By the way, recently I wrote about what happens in Transcarpathia, being in the thick of things ("Protests against mobilization in Transcarpathia"). Earlier I also touched upon the peculiarities of political realities in the region (see. "Uzhgorod political", "How I observed the election of the President of Ukraine in Uzhgorod").
This is exactly the same picture of events spread in a number of Russian media and Russian-language blogosphere. In this picture, they create an idea of almost the heroic struggle of the local Rusyn population against forced Ukrainianization and dominance of "Nazis". Several sources reported that Rusyns demanded the autonomy within Ukraine and even the creation of an independent "Republic of Subcarpathian Rus".
And unlike earlier of such incidents, demands of Rusyn independence were alongside demands of the Hungarian one. As you know, Transcarpathia borders with Hungary and there are areas densely populated by Hungarians on the border (Beregovo and Chop). How these two demands – of both Hungarian and Rusyn independence – fit into the concept of the "Republic of Subcarpathian Rus", I personally have no idea.
Actually, it is not the first time Russian media are engaged in the construction of virtual reality, so now I have to tell about the real situation. By the way, a journalist of Russia Today was detained in Rakoshyno, which was even reported by Russian media.
What is really happening
In fact, in Transcarpathia there have been protests against the forced mobilization. On the eve of July 28 (when road blocking began), the following rumors were spread:
- In Transcarpathia, according to various sources, 3000 to 6000 men are to be called to the ATO zone.
- That they organize raids for recruits and take to military commissariats everybody without exceptions, that they pull young men out of beds at night, catch them on trains and buses, at village discos. Allegedly, such precedents have been observed in Khust, Vynogradivo and Mukachevo districts.
- That they take even 14-16 year olds who are not subject to draft under the law.
- That the police, military officers, and even (!) the Right Sector take part in those raids.
Frankly, brutality of military offices is not something particularly incredible. However, no matter how many times local activists and journalists, I have spoken with, and I myself tried to find out whether such incidents have really happened – we could not get an answer.
Usually, at first, a person willingly tells that it happened to someone from his family / friends, but when asked to give their phone number, the person immediately begins to find excuses – like they actually heard it from someone else whose contacts they do not have. Notably, when such questions were asked by journalists, the people often reacted agressively, which had never been observed in Transcarpathia before. The attitude to local journalists had always been neutral or positive.
In actuality, people only received calls. Moreover, it should be noted, that calls have not been delivered and basically could not have been delivered to Roma – many of them do not have even passports let alone registration in the military commissariat. However, they were involved in road blocking, for example in Dombuky. Local Roma take part in political campaigns only for money, for example, during Yanukovych’s regime, the regularly were used as "flag holders." The conclusion is obvious.
The source of the rumors is currently unknown. They say (but it is again only rumors) that on the day before blocking the Kyiv-Chop highway, some car without license plates was seen in Rakoshyno and some people were walking around the village.
During the rally near the recruiting office in Mukachevo, which gathered 100-150 women who protested against their husbands and sons to be taken to the ATO area, the police detained two suspects, one of which had smoke bombs in a bag.
Anyway, all the demands, that were announced during the protests and subsequent rallies, were only to stop recruitment with illegal methods (which, as we found out, has never happened). There were no demands for autonomy or separation. The participants of the protests themselves emphasized that they were for united Ukraine, but do not want their relatives and friends to shed their blood for that as a result of thoughtless and criminal orders.
Later, as I was told, the organizor of road blocking in the village of Rakoshyno came to the village council and apologized for the panic.
Some raised questions about the involvement of the clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate in these events.In Rakoshyno, there is a monastery of the UOC (MP), and some priests in Transcarpathia have openly anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian views. However, no real evidence of their involvement in the protests has been found so far.
The most popular theory in Transcarpathia now is that Medvedchuk’s people, who still have property and relations in the region, are involved in the dissemination of the rumors and road blocking.
However, at the moment, this information can not be considered 100% proven.
Speaking of the local elite, Victor Baloha, for instance, made a statement that the demands of protesters are legitimate because only people, who have served in the army, must be called and they should be provided with uniforms, weapons, ammunition, food, their lives should be insured.
As for Petro Hetsko, he has long been wanted for separatism and is staying in Russia. Locals largely think of him as a crazy person (and they know that he once was actually treated at the Beregovo psychiatric hospital), and the ideas of Rusyn separatism promoted by him are not supported in the region.
For example, just recently Hetsko wrote that "90.9% of interviewed Transcarpathians do not consider Poroshenko legitimate president of Ukraine". However, in my experience during local elections, the majority of residents of Transcarpathia voted for Poroshenko.
The idea of "uprising" and opening of the "second front" in Transcarpathia promoted by Russian media and bloggers is just as fake as talks of establishment of the "Siberian People’s Republic," which have recently appeared, and exists only in the virtual reality of information warfare for encouragement of the supporters.