Staunton, April 21 – There is perhaps no better way to call attention to the way in which Vladimir Putin insists on one standard for his own country and a very different one for Ukraine and others than to imagine the position the Kremlin leader might have found himself in had he been asked what would have been some very inconvenient questions.
Andrey Bilzho, a Ukrainian journalist, has fantasised about just such a scenario and suggested five groups of questions that Putin might have been asked had his audience been truly free to do so — but weren’t because they would have called into question Moscow’s entire approach to Ukraine and to the Russian Federation as well.
First of all, he said he would have liked to see Putin asked how the Kremlin would respond if someone running for president of the Russian Federation called for splitting up that country? “How fast would a criminal case for ‘separatism’ be launched?’ Would that individual lose his business or his job?
Second, Blizhko said he would like to have Putin respond to the question of how he would respond to a Buryat desire “to become an independent state and, following that, unite with Mongolia [because they and the Mongols are] one people, one culture and on religion [and because they are] tired of having to struggle for Buryat to gain the status of a state language.”
Third, in this hypothetic situation, would Moscow “welcome the loss of land and part of Baikal? Would the Russian army not be flown there immediately? And would not the Buryats be declared separatists and traitors of the people?”
Fourth, the Ukrainian journalist suggested that Putin should have been asked how he would react if “a group of Germans in Kaliningrad were to give citizens of Russia German passports [if] the German government were to promise the residents of the Kaliningrad land larger pensions, the best medical services [and if] the Kaliningraders and those in adjoining territories would vote via referendum to unite with Germany.”
Would Moscow not consider such people “traitors, terrorists and separatists?” And would not it send the Russian army to intervene?
And fifth, Blizhko says, he wishes Putin had been asked how he would respond to the following situation: “If the Chinese were to concentrate their forces along the border with Russia,” if some residents on the Russian side said they’d like to unite with China, and if “the Chinese were to say they wanted to make the Chinese language the second state language in these [Russian] areas because there are so many Chinese there?” In such a case, would Putin and the Russian government “not consider these regions separatists and traitors?”
The number of such questions which Putin would certainly have found inconvenient could be multiplied at will, Blizhko says, but they all point to an even more immediate one: “Why should [ethnic] Russians who are living in the east of Ukraine, who were born there, and who studied there not love their native Ukraine?”
If things are as bad for such people as Moscow insists, why, Blizhko continues, haven’t they left yet or why aren’t they leaving now? Who is it that supposedly is prohibiting them from speaking Russian? “Why precisely now is there such a desire to go to Russia,” while before February 2014, there wasn’t?
“In sum,” Blizhko says, he has “many questions” to which he “can’t find an answer” and which Putin was not asked – but quite obviously should have been.