Nela Lisková, the self-proclaimed "honorary consul of DNR" has portraits with guns (Photo by Yevropeyska Pravda)
Hardly have Ukrainian and foreign observers dealt with the “honorary consul” appointed by the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DNR”) gangsters in Ostrava, Czech Republic than a new terrorist ambassador for the unrecognized Russian-backed statelets in Ukraine’s Donbas has appeared – this time in Austria.
The opening of the Ostrava destination was announced on 1 September 2016 and widely advertised as such in Russian media, being called either a “diplomacy center,” or a “representative office” of the self-proclaimed “DNR.” The Czech MFA disagrees: it doesn’t recognize the “DNR,” and therefore will have no relations with it. “According to our information, what some call a ‘diplomacy center or a representative office’ of the self-proclaimed DNR, is just a union registered in Ostrava. It cannot be considered a diplomatic office of a country. The Czech MFA will not have any relations with this center,” its message said.
The organization, officially registered in a shabby building on the outskirts of Ostrava, has a self-proclaimed “honorary consul,” Nela Liskova, that sports photos of herself wearing military fatigues and packing firearms in the “DNR,” proclaimed a terrorist organization by Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office.
Legally, the Ostrava center has been registered by Nela Liskova as an association of private citizens with the name “Zastupitelské centrum DNR,” which translates as “DNR Representative center,” in mid-June 2016.
At a press conference at the opening of the center, Nela Leskova, a member of the xenophobic National Militia movement, said that the center is aimed at rebuilding ties between Ostrava and Donetsk, both crumbling industrial centers that were once sister cities.
The new “embassy” in Austria will presumably represent not the “DNR” but the “LNR” (“Luhansk People’s republic”) – the other Russian-backed unrecognized breakaway region in Donbas. On September 8, a “deputy” of the so-called “Parliament LNR” Nikolai Zaporozhtsev announced that the Austrian citizen Alfred Almeder will head the organization.
However, this was a surprise for Mr.Almeder himself, who is a cashier in the “Working Union of humanitarian aid to Ukraine,” an organization managed by left journalist Leo Gabriel. Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria Oleksandr Shcherba tweeted on September 9 that Alfred Almeder has no desire to take up this position. The Austrian was involved in trips bringing humanitarian aid to the unrecognized “LNR,” but, according to the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, had no idea that he was violating Ukrainian law when making trips to the occupied regions of Donbas without permission from Ukraine.
In a comment to tsn.ua, Shcherba said that a group of enthusiasts managing a stall “in support of LNR” at community events had suddenly become more active. According to him, it is this stall that will be renamed into a “Representation of the LNR,” and that it was a matter of time before one of the supporters of the terrorist republic at the stand would give out business cards in the role of its representative.
According to Ukrainian journalist Vitaliy Portnikov, the scenario here is very similar:
“Using various legal loopholes in the Austrian legal system, a public organization including the words ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ in its title or charter will be created, and then start – with appropriate promotional resources, of course – pretending that it’s a diplomatic mission, even if Austria doesn’t recognize it.”
Russia is an old hand at such tactics, Portnikov continues. In the first years after the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, the Communist government was not recognized by most countries of the world. That didn’t stop them – they opened “authorized representative offices,” recruited supporters, and allocated funds for subversive activities. And all were terrorists sent by the Comintern to spread “their truth,” working within the legal framework of foreign countries.
Portnikov considers that the opening of the two offices are not a simple episode, but a well-planned propaganda campaign, for which the Russian Federation has allocated a lot of money, with the purpose of putting pressure on Ukraine and on Ukraine’s western partners.
“It’s trying to convince everyone that the Donbas issue must be addressed as quickly as possible – on Russian terms, of course. Why? Because the occupied territories are gradually turning into ‘real states,’ the residents feel that they are ‘the Donbas nation,’ and that their ‘state’ – would you believe it!! – now has its own diplomatic representation!! So, hurry up with ‘federalization’ because there’s no way turning back the clock!” the analyst wrote.
But of course, that is nonsense, Portnikov continues:
“There are no ‘diplomatic missions.’ No ‘People’s Republics.’ There’s no ‘Donbas nation,’ as, incidentally, there is no ‘Crimean nation.’ On the other hand, there are Ukrainians living under Russian occupation, but it’s easy to resolve this dilemma. We need to make the occupation troops withdraw and dismantle the collaborationist administrations.”
The issue of federalization, or “special status” of the occupied regions is one of the components of the Minsk peace process that Russia is attempting to utilize to ensure its chance to disrupt Ukrainian political life from within, via its proxies, the “DNR” and “LNR.”
What about the propaganda effect of this move?
So far, the “diplomatic efforts” of the “LDNR” have been relayed only on Russian television channels and in the Kremlin’s propaganda resources. Despite official invitations to visit the opening of the Ostrava center being sent out to Czech parliamentarians, none of them showed up for the event, RFE/RL reported.
Several Czech politicians have condemned the move. A Czech member of the European Parliament, Jaromir Stetina, has said the whole affair has made the Czech Republic the laughingstock of Europe and called for Liskova to be arrested on terrorism charges. In an August 30 statement, he urged Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek to do his duty and arrest Liskova and shut down the center, saying it was “making a mockery of Czech diplomacy.”
However, others say that the activities of the “embassy” can’t be stopped – a viewpoint, that, according to Serhiy Sydorenko, is more popular in the Czech republic – a consequence of Ukraine’s failed diplomatic efforts in the Czech direction.
“If she does not break the law, the Czech authorities cannot do anything. If a criminal attends this event, he can be arrested and extradited to Ukraine, but generally, the ‘consulate’ is a legitimate public formation,” said Jakub Janda, the Deputy Director of the Czech think-tank Evropské hodnoty (European values).
“The Czech Republic may perhaps refuse to issue visas for those travelling to the event, or detain those who are on the wanted list. But if some Horlivka poetess comes and speaks about the ‘horrible Kyiv junta’ – she has the right to do it,” agrees Ondrej Soukup.
According to Sydorenko, only the replacement of Ukraine’s ambassador to the Czech Republic will have the potential to stop anti-Ukrainian sentiments from spreading in the country.