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Putin's Federalization Card in Ukraine

Published: April 8, 2014 (Issue # 1804)


Not that long ago, the idea of federalizing Ukraine was interesting only to a handful of obscure scholars, but it has now suddenly taken center stage in the political debate. Moscow is demanding that Kiev adopt a new constitution that provides for a decentralized model of government to regulate relations between the regions and capital.

Most Ukrainian politicians strongly oppose this idea. Meanwhile, Washington does not reject the possibility of federalization but insists that Ukrainians must make that decision for themselves.

Even if a pro-Russian president came to power in Kiev, it is now highly unlikely that he could form a pro-Russian cabinet. Moscow's strategy is therefore to weaken Ukraine's government institutions as much as possible. Toward that end, the Kremlin wants to establish governing bodies that are autonomous in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lugansk, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk and other eastern regions of the country. The hope is that those regional administrations would then align themselves more with Moscow than with Kiev, making it possible to preserve their economic and cultural ties with Russia, along with their important links to Russia's defense industry.

Federalizing Ukraine would amount to a radical decentralization of power currently concentrated in Kiev. It would mean electing governors rather than appointing them from Kiev, permitting each region to retain the taxes their citizens pay, independent policies concerning the Russian and Ukrainian languages and greater powers for regional authorities.

If Russian cannot hold all of Ukraine within its sphere of influence, it can at least try to maintain its influence in the eastern regions loyal to Moscow.

Moscow justifies its demand for federalization by arguing that in the 20 years it has existed as an independent and unitary state, Ukraine has failed to consolidate and effectively rule its western, eastern, southern and central regions. Russia also says Ukraine lacks a common identity or a common historical narrative. Many people in southern and eastern Ukraine are unhappy with the government's attitude toward the Russian language and feel it should receive official status, citing the official multiple-language policies of Switzerland and Belgium.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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