A wide angled lens look at the “Mukachevo incident”

Grabbing the headlines over the past day or so has been the (currently on-going) incident between Right Sector and the State in Mukachevo.

To briefly zoom in, the incident concentrates around cigarette smuggling, criminality and collusion of regional officials therein.

It resulted with Right Sector taking the law into their own hands, people being shot and police cars being blown up by RPGs.  The result, death, serious injury, and currently Right Sector members negotiating their disarming and surrender via MP Dmitry Yarosh.


They will claim, perhaps with a good deal of justification, that informing or complaining to local MPs such as Lano, Boyko or Homutynnik would be entirely pointless given their close proximity to the corruption and criminality of the region.  The regional governor is rumoured to be even more closely involved, as are several police officers and a judge or two.

Questions will be asked of the regional SBU as to how there was no intelligence regarding this Right Sector action on the radar.  After all, only a few days ago President Poroshenko stated publicly that the nation was awash with illicit arms and that there was a high chance of terrorist activity.

It is perhaps entirely the wrong question.  Whilst some things can happen rapidly defeating the possibility of gathering actionable intelligence, other intelligence matters have existed for years.

The question should be why the SBU, that undoubtedly has a substantial amount of intelligence upon the smuggling, criminality, and links to regional officialdom, has not acted.  These criminal rackets and the collusion of regional officials have existed for many years.  It has not suddenly appeared from nowhere.

Had the State policed the State as the State has promised to do, would this incident even have occurred?  If actions had matched rhetoric, the answer would probably be “no”.  That such blatant institutionalised criminality still exists unchallenged is a failing of the State to deal with the regional corruption that flows in all peripheral fiefdoms.

A few ad hoc arrests, but no attempt to seriously confront the underlying criminal structures, will not change anything - particularly when those arrests have thus far failed to put a single notable public figure in jail.

Nevertheless, the rule of law regarding the Right Sector actions must be applied.

Right Sector (or anybody else) cannot be allowed to shoot people or blow up police cars without legal consequences - even if their action was to deal directly with the continuing complete lack of legal consequences for criminality and blatant collusion within the regional officialdom.

It has to be said, the list of those senior corrupt officials “lustrated” in western Ukraine, is not much longer than the list of those senior corrupt officials “lustrated” in Odessa.

Any perceived justification for Right Sector actions in Mukachevo however, does not in any way equal legitimacy.  Thus those concerned must face the rule of law, probably outside the jurisdiction of the western oblasts, and rely upon the above perceived justifications as mitigation for their actions when any ruling is passed down.

However, the rule of law machinery cannot be allowed to end there.

There are still the criminal issues to address that Right Sector acted directly, albeit unlawfully, to confront.

The State has an obligation to thoroughly investigate the events that preceded the incident - and those events and those concerned - including those of the regional institutions - have to be seen to be judicially dealt with too.

The likelihood of regional governors, regional intelligence chiefs, police chiefs etc., resigning are slim.  There are few politicians, institutional heads and leading civil servants with the integrity to voluntarily resign - and with some of those having colluded with the criminality anyway, resignation is simply not enough.

Both Ukraine and Russia are awash with illicit weapons that entered the east of Ukraine and either seeped out of the ATO zone into Ukraine, or were smuggled back into Russia by Russian organised crime.  Both nations, as predicted when events in Donetsk initially unfolded more than a year ago, will have to face a well armed criminality, vigilantism, and “underground movements” as never before - and find a way to disarm or retrieve the illicit arms.

Hopefully the immediate on-going incident in Mukachevo will be resolved without further bloodshed.  However, the Cabinet of Ministers and in particular the Ministry of Interior and SBU have a real need to look at themselves regarding their “fight” against corruption.  If the strategy is to simply arrest corrupt officials now and again (and perhaps some will eventually go to jail) then that does not come close to tacking the criminal structures closely aligned to/involved in State corruption in many cases.

That this incident has occurred will not be a surprise to many of the “enlightened”.  The specifics and the location are somewhat irrelevant, for it could have been anywhere.

The international diplomatic community (those that get out of their offices anyway (UK, USA, Sweden, Poland etc)) will not be surprised at all.  Their time in the regions is not entirely spent with nibbling canapés, meeting political leaders and doing photo ops.  Many speak to journalists off the record, bloggers, NGOs and (often swivel-eyed) activists.  They reach out for the input the political class don’t and won’t provide.

Thus not only do the Ukrainian central leadership know who is doing what and with whom as well as the structures surrounding them (and by and large ignoring tackling the structures thus far), so do numerous embassies, and by extension numerous capitals.

Ergo, whatever benchmark Kyiv may think will meet domestic and international expectations regarding its “fight” against corruption, it would be fair to say both domestic and international audiences are likely to have very different benchmarks.

The upshot of this incident is that it should not only be Right Sector individuals involved that rightfully and unquestionably end up in jail.  Criminal and colluding political and institutional individuals have to be held accountable before the law too.

A policy to target structures and not simply (5 minute headline grabbing) individuals will have to be developed and actioned if similar armed incidents are to be avoided.

Tick-tock, tick-tock!