Staunton, July 15 – The clashes in Mukachevo lasted no more than an hour and were not that different from those which have taken place elsewhere in Ukraine over the past year, but according to Yevgeny Krutikov, a journalist for Moscow’s Vzglyad newspaper, there are seven “synergistic” reasons why these events have “shaken” Kyiv to its foundations.
These seven factors include:
1. Well-armed bandit groups with Czech telephones “do not appear every day.”
2. Two Verkhovna Rada deputies were directly involved and several others were drawn in.
3. The Right Sector, which is an “officially registered political organization and military system,” was involved.
4. The government in Kyiv responded only when everything had “in fact already ended.”
5. Ukrainian parliamentarians fought with one another in an anything but decorous brawl over the events.
6. “Everything ended in a draw.”
7. And “what is almost the most important, for several hours, one of the most isolated, non-Ukrainian, and politically inert regions of Ukraine was ‘shaken’ to its foundations.”
This combination of factors, Krutikov says, led some to come up with various conspiracy theories about who and what was involved within the Ukrainian political elite, but none of them stands up to close analysis. The notion, for example, that Yarosh staged this “to destroy Poroshenko’s regime” is “a fantasy,” given that Yarosh doesn’t have the power to do that.
But that focus on such real or imagined conflicts in the upper reaches of the Ukrainian political establishment has had the effect of distracting attention from what is far more important: the possibility that residents of Trans-Carpathia will use this occasion to press for more autonomy, something that could transform the Ukrainian political game in fundamental ways.
According to Krutikov, “Trans-Carpathia is a distinctive, geographically isolated, ethnically complex, historically fraught self-sufficient region which will defend its special nature to the last. The majority of its people list themselves as Ukrainians but do not have any familial feelings for Kyiv or even for Lviv.”
This dislike is “historical,” he continues, “but until recently, everything was peaceful” because the people of Trans-Carpathia had been able to make their own way – often by smuggling – without much interference from outside – and that was an arrangement that satisfied them.
Local residents, the Moscow journalist says, are “quite inert” because their historical experience has taught them that any action on their part is likely to generate a negative response from more powerful players. Hungarian nationalism is thus something they aren’t interested in exploiting “without need.”
But Budapest and Kyiv are changing that, the first intentionally and the second because it appears not to understand what it is doing, Krutikov suggests. Hungarians have displayed increasing interest in Trans-Carpathia and have even provided protection to some refugees from there.
One Hungarian official, Janos Lazar, has even accused the Ukrainian foreign ministry of seeking to block the work of Hungarian intelligence officers in Trans-Carpathia, “despite former agreements according to which Budapest covertly protects its own diaspora” on that Ukrainian territory.
Kyiv by its response to Mukachevo is also pushing, together with the Right Sector, the people of Trans-Carpathia toward a new awakening. “Perhaps not tomorrow but in the near future, a political movement for the further separation of the oblast will be able to form in Trans-Carpathia” as a result.
In that event, Hungary “will certainly support it” and take even more steps to link up with members of its own diaspora. But this will only happen because Kyiv and the Right Sector, “working against one another, have combined to unleash a process of the politicization of the Trans-Carpathia, which had been quite far from such questions.”