OPINION: Three Grenades for Christmas

National Police of Ukraine on the site of the incident in Keretsky village.

    Tragedy struck the quiet Transcarpathian village of Keretsky, located approximately 1,300 km away from the front line in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, where the recent explosion claimed one life and left 25 injured. Despite its considerable distance from the conflict, the village witnessed a shocking incident during a local council meeting discussing the 2024 budget.

The meeting took a dark turn when Serhiy Batrin, a member of the Servant of the People party, abruptly left, wrote a suicide note, and returned with three grenades. The explosives were detonated during the council session, capturing the grim event on record.

The Head of the Council, Mykhailo Mushka, had proposed a motion to increase his salary and grant himself an end-of-year bonus. Notably, Mushka, a former member of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform – For Life until its ban in September 2022, has remained a controversial figure. Despite recent police detainment over bribery allegations, he continued to lead the village council and gained attention for refusing to remove a Soviet soldier monument, earning praise on Russian television.

The incident highlights the complex and sometimes troubled dynamics within local councils, even in regions far removed from active conflict zones.

Serhiy Batrin was known in the village as an idealist and a champion for justice. He took it upon himself to construct a children's playground and spearheaded the restoration of the village cemetery. Despite having a background in the transport business, he had willingly left that behind.

During the critical village council meeting, Batrin had nominated himself for the position of secretary, but his colleagues neglected to include his name on the agenda. Instead, another deputy from the Servant of the People party was elected as the secretary.

In the aftermath of the explosion at the village council, a meme surfaced on social networks featuring an image of a grenade with the caption "A bonus from Serhiy Batrin." The meme seemed to convey a message against figures of authority seeking salary increases and self-awarded bonuses, potentially signaling a broader sentiment against such practices.

Surprisingly, even Russian mass media, including openly propagandistic channels, exhibited restraint in their commentary on the tragedy in the Transcarpathian village. It appears they may be cautious due to concerns about similar incidents potentially occurring within their own village councils. Instead of delving into the details of the incident, their focus shifted to the quantity of weapons now reportedly in the hands of unregistered Ukrainian civilians.

Acknowledging the potential security risks, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry has announced heightened security measures in public spaces. Plans include installing metal detector frames at train stations, shopping centers, and schools, with specially trained police stationed on duty.

However, there's a notable absence of discussions about implementing metal detectors in village and city councils, where discussions on next year's budgets take place. The necessity of having police on duty during these meetings is also conspicuously absent from the conversation.

Fortunately, not all local councils in Ukraine have been voting to increase their own salaries or grant bonuses to their leaders. Many deputies seem to recognize the ongoing war—a war for the very existence of the state. For instance, the Yavoriv town council in the Lviv region recently voted to allocate Hr.143 million (€3.5 million) from the city budget to the Ukrainian army for the purchase of drones and other essential equipment. This demonstrates a commitment to supporting the broader national cause amid challenging times.

Certainly, ordinary Ukrainians demonstrate unwavering support for their army by contributing whatever they can. They grasp the significance of the quote often attributed to Emperor Napoleon: "He who does not feed his army will feed someone else's."

While the festive spirit in Kyiv may seem somewhat subdued compared to the previous year, many Ukrainians are eager to extend generosity to those on the front lines. Their Christmas wishes reflect a heartfelt concern for the comfort and safety of the country's defenders, embodying a collective commitment to the well-being of those safeguarding the nation.