It is 1,300 km from the hottest point of the front – the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region – to the Transcarpathian village of Keretsky, which makes Keretsky about as far away from the front line as you can get and still be in Ukraine. But that is where three grenades exploded the other day, killing 1 person and injuring 25.
The explosions occurred during a meeting of the local council, at which the budget for 2024 was being discussed. The Head of the Council, Mykhailo Mushka, had tabled a motion to increase his salary and award himself an end-of-year bonus. While this was being discussed, a member of the Council from the Servant of the People party, Serhiy Batrin, left the hall, went home, wrote a suicide note, and taking three grenades with him, returned to the village council.
The meeting was recorded, and the moment when Batrin re-entered the hall and detonated the grenades is documented.
The first thing local journalists remembered when they learned about the explosion was that the head of the village council, Mykhailo Mushka, had been a member of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform – For Life until it was banned in September of 2022.
He recently refused to remove the village’s monument to a Soviet soldier, for which he received praise on Russian television. Not long ago, the police detained him over accusations that he had taken bribes, but they did not arrest him, and Mushka has continued to chair the village council.
Serhiy Batrin had a reputation in the village as an idealist and warrior for justice. On his own initiative, he built a children’s playground and organized the restoration of the village cemetery. He was once involved in the transport business but gave that up.
At the fateful meeting of the village council, he had put forward his candidacy as secretary, but his colleagues did not even put his name on the agenda. Another deputy, also from the Servant of the People party, was elected as secretary.
Immediately after the explosion in the village council, someone posted a meme on social networks with an image of a grenade and the caption “A bonus from Serhiy Batrin.” This meme seemed to be calling for action against people in authority who are trying to raise their salaries and issue bonuses for themselves.
The post, which appeared in local authority chat groups in several regions of Ukraine, did not have time to go viral. The cyber security services removed the meme from social networks, assessing it as dangerous. But other memes immediately appeared with images of grenades and the inscription “A war time bonus.”
It is strange that in the comments and articles about this incident in Keretsky, no one mentioned the climax of the television series “Servant of the People” – a scene in which Holoborodko – a simple Ukrainian teacher, played by Zelensky, is so tired of high-level corruption that he machine guns the Ukrainian parliament.
During his “direct line” discussion with Russian citizens, Vladimir Putin claimed that there was a civil war in Ukraine. He could have pointed to the explosion of the grenades in the Transcarpathian village council as confirmation of that.
However, the Russian mass media – even openly propagandistic channels – were restrained in their comments about the tragedy in the Transcarpathian village. They must be afraid of similar events occurring in their village council. They only focused on the number of weapons now in the hands of unregistered Ukrainian civilians.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has been thinking about this too and has announced increased security measures in public places. Metal detector frames will soon be installed at train stations, shopping centers, and schools, where specially trained police will be on duty.
There is no mention of the installation of metal detectors in village and city councils where next year’s budgets are being discussed. No one talks about the need for police to be on duty at these meetings.
By no means all local councils in Ukraine have been voting to increase their own salaries and to give bonuses to their leaders. The behavior of most deputies indicates that they understand that there is a war going on – a war for the existence of the state itself. The town council of Yavoriv, in Lviv region, recently voted to give Hr.143 million (€3.5 million) from the city budget to the Ukrainian army for the purchase of drones and other equipment.
Indeed, ordinary Ukrainians donate whatever they can to the army. They understand the quote attributed to Emperor Napoleon: “He who does not feed his army will feed someone else’s.”
I get the impression that the festive spirit in Kyiv is less bright than it was last year, but many Ukrainians are keen to share what they have with those who are at the front and their Christmas wishes are all about the comfort and safety of the country’s defenders.
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