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Mukachevo as an example of Ukraine’s “new life”: he who shoots the first is right

Photo: svoboda.org

While the Ukrainian authorities were negotiating with the Right Sector, another skirmish was registered in Mukachevo on Monday. What has really happened in that small Ukrainian township? And why has an ordinary shoot-out made so much noise?

“Dialogue” of business entities

You will not be able to understand this unless we tell you the background story.

The “color revolution” and the war in Donbass have ruined the system of moral coordinates in Ukraine. Even more, over the last 25-30 years, the Ukrainian authorities and their foreign partners have shaped a new psychology for millions of Ukrainians having no other values but money. The Maidan marked the start of Ukraine’s degradation. Today we are witnessing the collapse of Ukraine as a state.

What was that shoot-out about? A small borderline township in Zakarpattia region, Mukachevo is the contraband capital of Ukraine. And the whole conflict is about who will control the border and the contraband flows going through it. Quite recently, governor of Zakarpattia region Vasyl Gubal said that redistribution of contraband flows is a usual thing for Zakarpattia.

Shadow economy implies illegal methods to settle disputes. In the 1990s Zakarpattia was an arena of real gangster wars. For the Right Sector fighters shoot-outs are a daily business but the Mukachevo case was the first time they faced a pushback. The Zakarpattian guys have seen enough in life not to be afraid of tummy guns or even grenades.

The core of the conflict in Mukachevo was the fight of the clans of Viktor Baloha and Mikhail Lanyo for control over cigarette smuggling. In the 1990s, Baloha was in Lanyo’s team. In 2006-2009, under Yushchenko, he was the head of the presidential secretariat, in 2010-2012 under Yanukovych he was the minister of emergency situations. In 2012-2014, he was an independent deputy. For many years Baloha played the role of the “owner of Zakarpattia” but the Mukachevo shoot-out has shown that there is one more powerful man in that region – Mikhail Lanyo, an MP from the People’s Will Group.

Being close to the Privat Group and Ihor Kolomoyskyi, Baloha asked the Right Sector to help him in is dispute with Lanyo. It is hard to say now who was the fight to shoot but as a result the Right Sector lost three men and was forced to retreat to the nearby village of Lavki. The Security Service decided to interfere but has done nothing yet to arrest the Right Sector fighters.

In fact, it was the first time the police rebuffed the Right Sector fighters. And it turned out that it was not so hard to beat the enemy.

The Mukachevo case has shown that the “color revolution” in Ukraine has ruined one of its pillars – the monopoly to use force.

The Mukachevo incident has confused even those who supported the Right Sector and called them “heroes” and “patriots.”

Indeed, it is hard to explain why those “patriots” used arms at the other end of Ukraine instead of “protecting their united country” in Donbass. 

So, Mukachevo has shown that today Ukraine is facing a conflict between the state and a feudal gang wishing to solve their problems on their own and ready to fight the state if it tries to interfere.

He who is stronger is right

The incident in Mukachevo was a psychological crisis. The Mukachevo guys and the police have shown that one should not be afraid of the Right Sector fighters even though the whole Ukraine is afraid of them and that one can even beat them. So, we can well expect new such rebuffs. Today the basic rule in Ukraine is “he who is stronger is right.”

One more thing the Mukachevo incident has shown is that the state in Ukraine is not able to protect private property. Influential businessmen are forced to do it on their own. So, why do they pay taxes to the state if that state is unable to protect them? All this is giving rise to centrifugal moods. During his last press conference, the new chief of the Security Service Vasyl Hrytsak expressed concern for growing separatism in Odessa, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv. Hrytsak did not mention Zakarpattia – even though this is the only region except Donetsk and Lugansk with a self-proclaimed republic of Sub-Carpathian Rus.

Both the Right Sector and President Poroshenko are inclined to soft-pedal this case, while US Ambassador to Kyiv Geoffrey Pyatt is doing his best localize this conflict as soon as possible. But the problem is that the conflict has not been settled, so, one day we may well see one more explosion somewhere in Ukraine.

Sergey Sokolov, EADaily analyst in Ukraine

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