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A Bulgar uprising? – Odessa

April 19, 2017

It has been several years since the blog noted the rise and subsequent failure of the Kremlin backed “People’s Council of Bessarabia” in the southwest of Odessa Oblast.

That several leaders were jailed on separatism charges and subsequently exchanged in prisoner swaps (to then head over the border of Ukraine’s large aggressive eastern neighbour), notwithstanding the failure to get MP Anton Kisse “on side”, who as unofficial Tsar of the region would have to give his support to any such entity for it to succeed, the idea to create separatist enclave in the southwest of Odessa died a strategic death.

That is not to say Mr Kisse is necessarily ideologically against a “Bessarabia” per se, only that he is quite aware of the negative economic outcomes upon his personal interests in creating one.  Nevertheless he is known to provoke the Bulgars, Gagauzes and Albanians in Bolgrad specifically, to call for independent territorial administrations.

As leader of the ethnic Bulgar community (the first leader, Theodore Karazhekov, disappearing never to be seen or heard of again when Mr Kisse decided he wanted to head the organisation) Anton Kisse nevertheless has clear empathy with the sensitivities of the Bulgar community.

Two years on from the failure of the “People’s Council of Bessarabia” and a return to clam within that region of Odessa, the rapidly approaching anniversaries of the 2nd May tragedy and 9th May Victory Day, appears to witness the ethnic Bulgars once again being subjected to Kremlin intrigues.

It has to be noted that from mid-April social media in Odessa has witnessed advertisements/recruiting for “professional Russians” to engage in anti-social and violent acts – the offered pay UAH 1000.  By “professional Russians” a reader should understand that these are people who only turn out to protest, whatever the cause (be it pro-Kremlin, tree hugging, or whatever) for money.  No money = no protester.

The offered UAH 1000 is sure to draw some in, for it is far more than most paid protests pay for turning out for their cause.

Ergo, the question is how big is the budget to sponsor trouble on 2nd and 9th May in Odessa?  For that will dictate the maximum number of paid protesters – less the expenses of busing in numbers if the locals aren’t sufficiently interested, plus placards, assorted smoke and gas grenades and perhaps a firearm or two in order to provide the necessary media spectacle.

Some figures being banded about seem ludicrously high even when paying a sizable mob for 2 days of protest, agitation, and perhaps riot.   MP Vadim Rabinovych, who may be entertaining but who is also often a stranger to the truth (perhaps unsurprisingly for a man jailed twice in his life for criminality) has stated up to a staggering UAH 27 million is available to destabilise Odessa between now and the 2nd and 9th May dates.

What has this to do with the ethnic Bulgar community?

With regard to the UAH 1000 “professional Russian” recruiting probably very little – if anything.

However it appears the ethnic Bulgars are to be used yet again in Kremlin shenanigans in Odessa – whether ethnic Bulgars are actually involved or not.

It has become known that the Russian secret services sent a man via Kharkiv to Odessa to meet with a known Kremlin agent provocateur called Nikolai Dulsky who heads the NGO Наждак (Najdak which means Emery (as in Emery cloth), or abrasive).  The NGO indeed lives up to its name.

The plan was to have the Bulgars appear before the Bulgarian Consulate in Odessa at the monument to the poet Hristo Botev and produce placards and flags chanting for the equal rights for an oppressed Bulgarian community – or perhaps more accurately to have people appear to be ethnic Bulgars from Odessa carrying out such acts as it is entirely unclear whether any Bulgars were involved.

Indeed the SBU has detained Mr Dulsky and seized placards, cash and weapons – the standard preparatory fare – as well as flags of both Bulgaria and Ukrainian nationalists.

The intention it would seem, to create two sides, ethnic Bulgars and Ukrainian nationalists, brawling outside the Bulgarian Consulate over “ethnic issues”.  Mr Dulsky’s fee to The Kremlin for creating this theatre was UAH 80,000 – which was to include the payment of those purporting to be ethnic Bulgars, and perhaps Ukrainian nationalists had Ukrainian nationalists failed to show up.  (One of the things those with extreme views can be relied upon for, is to react to carefully constructed reflexive control operations – not withstanding the ease at which agent provocateurs can work within such organisations.)

The Consulate of the Russian Federation in Odessa is located about 500 meters from the Bulgarian Consulate thus guaranteeing that had the plan come to fruition, lots of unsightly video and photographic propaganda would ensue both within Ukraine and of course Bulgaria.  That such active measures involving the ethnic Bulgars (or those pretending to be such) have (thus far) has been thwarted will probably garner no traction within the Bulgarian media.

Thus the prelude to what seems very likely to see Kremlin attempts to provoke discord in Odessa are once again are under way.  No doubt the first 2 weeks of May in Odessa will be filled with intrigue, active measures and reflexive control operations.  A reader might suspect the same in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Kherson too – but perhaps a watchful eye should once again also be cast upon “Bessarabia” if yet further attempts at manipulating (even if only in name) the ethnic Bulgars are once again on the Kremlin agenda.

In failing fast and in failing cheap, a foiled operation that cost UAH 80,000 hardly makes a dent in the extraordinary (and frankly highly questionable) UAH 27 million Vadim Rabinovych claims is available to destabilise Odessa over the coming weeks.

It remains to be seen how Odessa will police these coming weeks.

Thus far it has not requested external assistance during 2 – 9 May as it has in previous years.  The police are also trying to recruit a further 400 officers which indicates that perhaps the thin blue line is actually particularly thin already – without what will be significant public safety operations.  The SBU will no doubt be working flat out too.

An interesting few weeks ahead perhaps.

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