Today, a number of border crossing points in Western Ukraine is blocked by the actual owners of cars with foreign registration. In Transcarpathia, the most important checkpoints on the border with Hungary, Slovakia and Romania are blocked.

Meanwhile, the part of the cars stays abroad, people call them “hostages”. An abrupt shutdown of the passing of cars with European license plates across the borders of Ukraine sparked mass protests.

In Transcarpathia, now, on Monday, November 26, drivers, who de facto own the cars with European license plates (mostly Slovak and Hungarian cars), are already protesting at the border crossing points.

In Solotvyn (border with Romania), the transition was unblocked on Monday after being blocked from the Sunday night. In Malyi Bereznyi (the border with Slovakia was blocked here on Sunday), the blockade continues. The protest at the checkpoint “Tysa”, which is in the westernmost city of Ukraine, continues.

Here, in Chop, the cars are blocked most of the time due to the bubbly traffic at the border with Hungary. The vans were blocked too. However, the passenger bus “Naples – Lutsk” was allowed to go. As for the checkpoint “Uzhhorod”, where the border is close to the city, the situation is characterized as a “heavy traffic”, a complete “stop” is predicted.

In “Tysa” the cars of the protesters stand with open hoods as if the cars are out of work. This scheme has been used several years when blocking the checkpoint. One of the “broken” cars was used to block the way of the van which is heading Hungary.

The police observe but don’t interfere. The protesters announced the intention to “stand up till the end” and express everything that had bothered them.

“Why do you do this?”

“How else can we make our point?!”

One of the protest leaders in Transcarpathia answers, screaming. It seems that there’s no a single “leader”, the speaker always changes. But the integrity is present. On Sunday, overnight, more than 300 people arrived at the People’s Square (the central square of Uzhhorod, where, in particular, the Transcarpathian Regional Council and the Regional State Administration are located), the mountain of tires was brought.

Part of the tires was set on fire: first, they were planned to be set on fire just at the doors of the Regional Council and the Regional State Administration but then the procession moved to the center of the square. The tires were symbolically set on fire: with money.

The black smoke covered the entire area until the fire brigade intervened late in the evening. Then the participants of the action began to warm up with firewood and said: they would stand until the morning, and after that, they decide – what next. This “next” became the visit to the checkpoint “Tysa” and a “broken” car just near the demarcation line: the border came to a standstill.

The Transcarpathian community split up in its opinions: someone supports the drivers in cars with European license plates, since he himself drives such a car, or considers unjustified the difference in the price of a car with the Ukrainian registration and the terms of clearance and the amount that should be paid for the “legalization”. Therefore, they see nothing wrong with the fact that people took advantage of the crack in the law and say: “We must defend our rights!”

Others complain: why someone else’s desire to have a cheaper car should affect others: breathe the smoke of burnt tires, suffer from blocking of the roads and borders… Moreover, they complain that the owners of the cars with European license plates themselves advocated the adoption of a new law against which they stand up now.

Meanwhile, protesters say that they don’t oppose the legalization of cars, but want the advantageous for them rates. Concrete 10% could be heard near the tightly parked cars at the checkpoints but the emotions dominate here. The hot temper doesn’t cool down under the heavy rain, from which umbrellas and raincoats can’t save. The water flows down the hoods…

In the social networks, where it’s dry and comfortable, furious discussions are lasting. They recall the phenomenon of cargo-cult: the imitation of a phenomenon in form, and not in essence. Because on Maidan the tire covers were burned down and people stood to the last for a civilized choice, for freedom, for higher values, and not for cheaper cars. Others appeal to the clear human need for well-being and talk about the natural choice of low prices. They’re asked: don’t you have to pay taxes? They answer: “Wait. What did the state give me?”. And the quarrel circles.

“First the raised the prices for household services. I was silent. I have a subsidy. Then they raised the prices for fuel. I was silent because I don’t have a car. Then they came to get the drivers on the cars with Europen registration. I was silent. My car has a Ukrainian registration. Then they came to get me. And nobody left, who could help me”, the resident of Uzhhorod, an immigrant from Donbas, wrote. “There, fleeing from war, we left everything and lost our business”. Recently, her husband bought a minibus with Europen registration to drive tourists to the nearest foreign countries. Now, he together with his car is blocked in Slovakia and can’t enter Ukraine. Others can’t get from Ukraine to same Slovakia (as well as Hungary, although it is already possible to get to Romania – the checkpoint was unlocked). This situation, it seems, can’t be decomposed only in the black-and-white spectrum…

So, it doesn’t look like a compromise now, but everyone recognizes the problem. The problem that appeared on Sunday night: when the border was suddenly closed for those who have cars with European registration and even those who have a registered car. Recently, the regional authorities declared the order to the border guards to “release the hostages” but these words don’t have any legal and practical result and they probably won’t: legislative regulation and intervention of higher authorities are necessary.

The protest of drivers is declared as open-ended. And now, apart from the traditional “who is to blame?” and “what to do?”,  the main question is how the issue will unfold after the introduction of a martial law.

Well, stormy times – the best times for provocations. The “infections” can dive into this storm. That’s why the Transcarpathian Prosecutor’s Office urged people to “be conscious and not be subjected to hostile provocations in the media.” Since in the “European license plates” discussion on the networks such sayings are sprawling: “to place block posts on the passes and open the border with the EU”, “to transfer the state border of Ukraine to the line of defence of Árpád” and so on. Law enforcers warn: this is an attack of “bots” in order to draw people into an information warfare. Whatever may come, it’s worth remembering: during crises, it is necessary to keep a head cold and think and act soberly. Otherwise, the consequences may be worse than simply unsuccessful protest on the issue of legalizing cars with European license plates.

Text by Alla Khayatova

Photo by Serhiy Hudak

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