January 10, 2017 –
By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ – translated by J. Arnoldski –
“Transcarpathia is not Galicia”
Over the past year, the regional councils of a number of regions of Ukraine (Poltava and Ivano-Frankivsk) have adopted laws demanding that President Poroshenko empower regions’ rights. Kiev has regarded these as manifestations of separatism. Now the baton has been taken by social organizations not only in Lvov, but also Transcarpathia. Indeed, it appears that Transcarpathis is gradually regaining the status of the main “separatist region” in Western Ukraine.
On October 12th, 2016, the chairman of the Transcarpathian Regional Council, Mikhail Rivis, demanded that the region be allocated more funds for developing infrastructure. Otherwise, Rivis threatened, Transcarpathia might secede from Ukraine. On December 2nd, in the Transcarpathian capital of Uzhgorod, a meeting of Hungarian youth and local deputies was held, whose participants proclaimed support for Rivis’ statement that the region could separate from Ukraine and establish autonomy. Hungarian activists then called on President Poroshenko to sign a special agreement which was read aloud by the leader of the initiative, Hungarian activist Ivan Farkosz.
Farkosz stated: “We invite Kiev to conclude this agreement on delineating powers, which would allow the Hungarian population to live in Ukraine with dignity. We support the opinion of the head of the Transcarpathian Regional Council, Mikhail Rivis, who announced the existence of objective preconditions for potential secession from Ukraine. If Kiev wants to see this region as part of its state, we demand the establishment of a quota of 20% for representatives of Hungarian communities in the Transcarpathian Regional Council and television broadcasts in Hungarian.”
Hungarians constitute approximately 12% of the population of Transcarpathia and are widely represented in councils on all levels. The raising of their demands for representation to 20% suggests that they have a feel for power and are actually dictating their terms to Kiev. In turn, the SBU has opened a criminal case on the holding of anti-constitutional events and is carrying out an investigation.
Following Uzhgorod and the local Hungarian community, the Polish community of the capital of Galicia, Lvov, has also asserted its rights. In Lvov on December 25th, a forum of the Polish community of the Lvov region was held whose participants demanded that the Kiev government grant economic autonomy to the region. The chairman of the association of Poles in Lvov, Sergey Lukyanenko, stated that the region is 50 years behind Poland in economic development. Lukyanenko added: “Poland will allow the residents of the Lvov region to realize themselves.” He also noted that Lvov “still has a chance.”
It is worth noting that Poles sympathize with the Hungarians of Transcarpathia. When in March 2016 in Uzhogord there was a procession of Ukrainian neo-Nazis shouting the slogan “Knife Hungarians!,” this caused an outburst of indignation not only in Hungary, but also in Poland itself. As a point of comparison, the Ukrainian foreign ministry and Ukrainian state expressed indignation at Warsaw after one person (only one!) yelled “death to Ukrainians!” at a march in Polish Przemysl. Ukraine, however, chose not to notice the mass calls for killing the Hungarians of Transcarpathia who have inhabited the region for more than a thousand years.
On December 22nd, representatives of the Transcarpathian Rusyns also announced their intent to seek an autonomous status for Transcarpathia. They demanded that the results of the 1991 referendum be recognized in which the region’s residents voted for autonomy within Ukraine. Ivan Palinkash, a member of the presidium of the People’s Council of Rusyns of Transcarpathia, said: “We have two main demands: recognize the Rusyns as a nationality and recognize the results of the referendum in which 78% of Transcarpathians voted for autonomy within Ukraine. We believe there is nothing wrong in this. We want to develop.”
“Recognize the results of the 1991 Transcarpathian referendum”
“Rusyns are not Banderites”
Next in the chain of events, on December 23rd, Rivis called on the Ukrainian government to not allow the region to reach the point of a “Donetsk and Lugansk scenario.” Rivis issued such a statement during a session of the regional council during which deputies voted for autonomous economic ties with other regions, in particular Poltava and Ivano-Frankivsk. These regions’ councils also adopted a resolution on extending their rights in addition to the demand that Kiev recognize such extended regional rights.
In Rivis’ words, “the administration is appointed by the president, but the regional councils are elected by the people…We must convey our ideas so that they are heard, and so that things will not reach such a point as in Donetsk and Lugansk when people rose up and said – ‘you’re not listening to us.’” In other words, the dubiously legitimate Poroshenko regime is opposed to the legally elected deputies of regional councils. This is a dangerous legal and political precedent for Poroshenko. Rivis’ words, moreover, blatantly threaten President Poroshenko with a repeat of the Donbass scenario.
Rivis and other deputies have not been punished for their words. Apparently, the regional SBU is afraid to use repression. The fate of Ukrainian Berkut is still fresh in the minds of Transcarpathian SBU officers. What’s more, Kiev is afraid of upsetting Hungarian “separatists”, behind whom could stand not only Hungary, but Poland and the EU as a whole.
According to reports from Transcarpathia, Hungary is actively issuing passports in the region. Even Rusyn activists have announced that the region’s residents have received 500,000 passports from Hungarian state services. It is likely that these figures are highly exaggerated, and the number of issued passports is hardly likely to have exceeded 150,000-200,00. Just a year ago, one came across the figure of 100,000 passports. Even this number is significant, however, given that the region’s population (including migrants working abroad) numbers 1,260,000 people.
This centrifugal process in Ukraine will only increase in view of the obvious crisis of Ukrainian statehood and the destruction of the very idea of Ukrainian statehood. This process is being led not by “separatists” from the South-East, but “patriots” from Western Ukraine. Back in 2008, the author of these lines predicted a similar scenario. I am convinced now, as I was in 2008, that Ukraine will lose its lands in the West and South-West as Ukraine’s current allies (Poland, Hungary, and Romania) will take advantage of the Ukrainian state’s weakness and foolishness to return territories annexed from them by the USSR which these countries still consider their own.