Olga NEGODA – Independent analyst and researcher
Fears that Kiev is in a position to try and repeat the ‘Donbass Scenario’ in Transcarpathia do not seem to be without grounds. Consequently, those behind the Carpathian Mountains are talking about federalisation increasingly emphatically. For Transcarpathians, this issue has remained unresolved for three decades: on 1 December 1991, a regional referendum was held alongside a referendum in Berehove Raion, in which 78 per cent of Transcarpathians voted in favour of giving the region the status of a special autonomous area within Ukraine, while more than 80 per cent of the population in Berehove Raison supported the recreation of the Hungarian Autonomous Region. The demands of the Rusyns and Hungarians in Transcarpthia are based on a solid legal foundation, and they share a common goal and a common threat.
The common threat is Ukraine, and the situation is intensifying. There have been repeated instances of the destruction of Ukrainian state symbols in Uzhhorod and Mukachevo, explosions in the local offices of PrivatBank, and demonstrations by Transcarpathian residents against mobilisation for war – everything is leading to the fact that the issue of granting Transcarpathia the status of an autonomous federal entity could come to a head.
Kiev has repeatedly implied that it intends to retain full administrative control over the region, including with the use of force. However, launching an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in Transcarpathia is considerably more complicated than in Donbass: a fifth of the pipeline that delivers gas in three directions – to Slovakia, Romania and Hungary – passes through the region. Also, more than 200,000 residents have Hungarian passports; Hungary could take decisive action to defend its citizens (and so as not to be left without gas).
It is amusing that the neo-Nazis in Ukraine are talking out loud about conquering Hungary… in a few hours. Among other things, a similar so-called threat appeared on the Ukrainian site glavcom.ua: «If required, three battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard and one Ukrainian special forces regiment (but not the regiment alone) could capture Hungary in several hours without encountering the slightest resistance».
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The population of Transcarpathia, 80 per cent of which make their living outside Ukraine and so are not dependent on it, hate the Banderites who seized power, do not consider themselves Ukrainian, and refer to the Kiev regime’s war in Donbass as somebody else’s war. Meanwhile, the leaders of Transcarpathia, sent from Kiev, are doing everything they can to build up this hatred even more. «If the population refuses to fight, then Pravy Sektor members go to their homes and intimidate them: if you don’t want to die there, then you can die here with your family. This will obviously never be forgotten and it will never be forgiven. Maybe they will be hung from posts, maybe they will be shot, but none will be left alive. The hatred is that strong,» said the Prime Minister of the unrecognised Republic of Transcarpathian Rus’, Petr Getsko, commenting on recent developments.
Galician Ukraine, which hates any kind of ‘isolation’ and is attempting to not only clamp down on, but also destroy the integrity of the Rusyn people, has turned the Rusyns against them so much that Transcarpathian Rus’ no longer sees itself in a unitary state with Ukrainian nationalists.
On 8 August 2014, Budapest hosted the Congress of Rusyns and Hungarians in Transcarpathia, at which those present agreed to try and obtain federal status for the region within Ukraine. A month later, Budapest also hosted the Congress of the World Council of Hungarians and the World Council of Transcarpathian Rusyns. Participants at the latter have appealed to the European Parliament, as well as the governments of Hungary and Ukraine, with a request to grant legitimacy to the 1991 referendum results.
At present, signatures are actively being gathered in Transcarpathia of residents in support of the Address to the deputies of the European Parliament, the legislative bodies of Ukraine and the Ukrainian president. The text of the address states that the residents of the region are calling for help in achieving the following aims:
– recognising the results of the 1991 referendum in Transcarpathia and granting the region the status of a federal entity;
– stopping the civil war in Ukraine and the activities of extremist and fascist organisations within the country; and
– preventing the genocide of Rusyns, Hungarians and the citizens of other nationalities living in Transcarpathia.
These demands are supported by two of the biggest parties in Hungary, whose deputies have more than 70 per cent of the vote in the Hungarian parliament.
On 19 September 2014, a press conference of the Congress’ organisers was held in a Hungarian house in Budapest; those present called on Hungarian parliamentary deputies to hold special hearings on the situation in Ukraine, including in Transcarpathia, with the adoption of a corresponding resolution. «For a long time, we have fought alone for recognition of the results of the 1991 referendum. Now it is a different matter. We are receiving the support of several countries – Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia. We are now ready for action,» says Petr Getsko.
After the parliaments of these three European countries have given their backing to the decision of the Congress of Hungarians and Rusyns, Transcarpathia is planning to confront Kiev with a fait accompli. Romanians, Hungarians, Slovakians and Rusyns are confident they will achieve their goal – autonomous status for Transcarpathia. In the European Parliament, the party ‘For a better Hungary’ (‘Jobbik’) is lobbying for the issue.
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According to those who deal in facts and figures, with the right approach to the socioeconomic development of Transcarpathia after obtaining autonomous status, the region will not descend into poverty. As is known, the budget of Transcarpathia is formed by the transit of Russian gas to Europe – nearly $4 billion. Kiev leaves Transcarpathia with less than 2 billion hryvnia, while also stating that the region is subsidised.
As well as the transit of energy resources, Transcarpathia also has remarkable mineral springs, excellent holiday resorts, and a fairly well-developed agricultural sector. The potential and prospects of the future autonomy are considerable.
For a long time, Transcarpathians have also been thinking about a project for a so-called Eurasian transport corridor uniting the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but bypassing the hotbed of Ukrainian nationalism – Galicia. This refers to the construction of a motorway between Mukachevo, Rakhiv and Chernivtsi. Such a corridor (its route has already been worked out) could unite central Europe with the industrial region of Novorossiya and countries in the Eurasian Economic Union.
And this would be a nightmare for the Kiev regime.
…For formal reasons, the Central Executive Committee of Ukraine has refused to grant an application by the Society of Hungarian Culture in Transcarpathia requesting that a majority district be created in Transcarpathia representing the interests of the Hungarian community. This decision by the Central Executive Committee was criticised in Budapest, where they believed it constituted a serious violation of the rights of Transcarpathian Hungarians. At present, the Society of Hungarian Culture intends to file a lawsuit against Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights.