Yesterday in the village of Keretsky, a village just east of the town of Mukachevo in the Zacharovanyi Krai National Park region of Zakarpattia, the beautiful mountainous region of Ukraine’s southwest to the east of the border city of Uzhhorod in Slovakia, something extraordinary happened. This region of Ukraine has been mostly untouched by war, and tourists still enter Zakarpattia from Slovakia to enjoy skiing holidays in some of Europe’s most beautiful and untouched ski resorts even in the middle of a war. A number of wealthier Ukrainian families have escaped conflict zones to live the war out in the safety of Zakarpattia, away from the horrors of daily military events and isolated from the constant sight of refugees and military men that afflicts living in a relative cultural paradise such as Lviv. Nevertheless yesterday the war came to the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine.
One of the village councillors in Keretsky was upset about something. Apparently the other village councillors had not been listening to his concerns and they had even been mocking and ridiculing him. I couldn’t find out precisely what his grievance was; nobody quite seems to know. Nevertheless he decided to make his grievance more explicit than hitherto, and he clearly thought that the other village councillors ought to be paying more attention to him than they had been doing previously. To emphasise his point, he pulled out three hand grenades, removed their pins, and rolled them onto the floor of the council meeting room. They exploded, seriously injuring over a dozen people. It is not known whether the councillor who did this will live. The scenes shocked and horrified people not just across Ukraine but across the world. I warn you that the following video is not for the faint of heart.
Why this village councillor decided to resort to such extreme measures to make whatever point he was trying to emphasise may never be known; a great deal depends on whether he survives. He may well have been desperate; he may have been mentally ill. He may have been driven crazy by the relentless cycle of war and misery and toil and death that assaults the senses every day living in a war zone in which everything is crazy and undefined and you just don’t know what’s going on and all you’re trying to do each day is to survive and keep your sanity without losing your mind at the bottom of a vodka bottle. We all have our own routines to try to spend at least part of the day in the company of other people, whether family or friends (if we are lucky) or just mere strangers, or some sort of cycle to help us keep our sanity when others all around us are losing theirs. In my case it is writing; documenting all the strange and unusual experiences I have and learn about each day is my way of expunging this sort of madness from my mind so that it does not all build up inside me and so that it does not explode. I try to keep myself going in some sort of way by getting all these crazy experiences out on paper. I’m trying to keep a record not just for the world of what it is like to live through this abominable war but also for myself and for my family and for my children, so that they know what this is all like and so, I hope, they are as committed as am I to a global future without war. For this is my passion, and I make no apologies for it.
I have been reading some interesting news in Ukrainska Pravda today that a well-connected former Ukrainian Ambassador to London is asserting that the British Army is making preparations to place troops officially on the ground in Ukrainian theatre. I mean, I know what has been going on unofficially but we don’t know anything about that. But if a major NATO member state is making contingency plans to enter Ukrainian theatre on the presumed invitation of the government of Ukraine then presumably this is not the only NATO member state making such plans and it is an indication that NATO is ready, if necessary, to enter Ukraine and itself hold Russian advances back. This confirms something that I do know, which is that NATO is collectively absolutely determined not to let Russian troops advance any further westwards than they already have done. There was shock and surprise at the speed with which the Russian Armed Forces entered the territories south / east of the Dnieper River in late February and early March 2022 and there is a resolute determination in the West that there will be no further unpleasant surprises of this kind. Should Russia attempt a further land grab, I am quite certain that NATO troops will enter Ukrainian theatre. This in itself is keeping the current status quo of the war in a certain stasis, and it is a good thing.
The British Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the Russian cyber attack is one of the worst ever seen. It struck not only Kyivstar, the country’s principal mobile telephone network provider (and their data services have still not resumed in central Lviv); but also the country’s banking networks and payment terminals in the country’s shops. Now we are several days after the cyber-attack and reconstruction efforts of the country’s wire free data transmission infrastructure are still underway. I find myself flabbergasted that we have become so reliant upon IT systems that are so vulnerable in these ways. I also find it odd that at least one branch of our intelligence services has taken to issuing press releases. I suppose it’s the modern way. It never used to be like this, but modern wars are propaganda wars - indeed all wars were propaganda wars to some degree. So I suppose we need to adapt to the times and present the bare facts so that the western public understands just what is at stake here. And if the Ministry of Defence intelligence service considers it appropriate to issue press releases, then I suppose I can see the logic in that.
Otherwise, things are very quiet here today. I am going to Lviv Opera House again this evening, to see a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with Ode to Joy exceptionally sung in Ukraine. You’ll have to excuse me now, as I need to take a few minutes to try to learn the words in Ukrainian or at least to have them on my otherwise inoperative mobile telephone so I can see whether I can sing along. I’ll be in the front row of the Stalls, as always, the nutter in the military fatigues.