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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

Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.



Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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