Staunton, September 3 – Kiev’s failure to take into consideration the opinions of part of the residents of the Donbass is Moscow’s fault because the Russian government has “done everything in order to discredit real and civilized protest by putting in its place banditry and armed aggression,” according to Russian commentator Kseniya Kirillova.
In a blog post, Kirillova points out that Russia “constantly subordinates the interests of the region to its own interests” and thus creates a situation like the story of the little boy who cried wolf: even when he spoke the truth, no one was prepared to listen to him or come to his aid.
Instead, because of Moscow’s intervention, Ukrainians are “already inclined to view” ethnic Russians or Russian speakers “as agents of Russian influence or in the best case as victims of television propaganda.” Indeed, Kirillova suggests, “for discrediting popular dissatisfaction it would have been impossible to do more” than Moscow has.
Consequently, “the best that Russia could do, if the interests of the residents of the region were really important to it, would be to pull out all the elements” it has inserted and allow the residents themselves to speak out. Obviously, it will be more difficult for Ukrainians to view their complaints as legitimate than it was for them to do so earlier.
Equally obviously, Moscow is not about to do that because it doesn’t care about the interests of its own citizens let alone Russian speakers and ethnic Russians who are citizens of other countries as it has repeatedly shown in the past, the Russian blogger says on the basis of her own experience as a resident of the Urals in the 1990s.
Russia at that time, she says, was “full of social contradictions in comparison with which the consequences of the Maidan [in Ukraine] are child’s play.” At that time, Russians weren’t paid and there was real hunger in some parts of the country.
“In that region where [Kirillova] lived all her life,” she says, “the most genuine separatist tendencies did arise. More precisely, one should not call them separatist in the full sense of the word: the oblast only demanded more rights and authority and could not even think about an armed uprising or the bringing in of foreign militants.”
That “project” was called the Urals Republic, she writes. But “even the weak Yeltsin government did not allow it to exist.” Instead, it moved to pull it out by the roots.” Kirillova says she is “grateful to the entire rest of the world” that it did not occur to anyone to “send into our streets armed militants who had decided ‘to support the Urals Republic’” by any means.
She says she is glad that did not happen because she “knows full well that [her] native and beloved city would have been transformed into the ruins of Grozny faster than [she] could have finished primary school.”
But there is a risk that something like that could happen in the future, Kirillova says. Weakened by sanctions and by its war in Ukraine, Russia itself may be torn by divisions and now, thanks to the “indulgent” approach to banditry in Ukraine, could face the kind of violence on behalf of regional interests it did not face in the 1990s.
Given the Kremlin’s proclivity to ignore real problems and to use force against those who attempt to raise them within the political system, it is entirely possible that there may be more destroyed cities like Grozny within Russia at least in part because of what Vladimir Putin has chosen to do in Ukraine.