By Paul Goble
Several Russians have been detained for defaming the Russian army when they have gone into the streets holding posters quoting Vladimir Putin’s words about the ways in which leaders of some countries seek to distract attention from domestic problems by engaging in foreign wars.
But if these cases only invite knowing smiles by observers who recognize that any leader’s remarks at one time may be interpreted by some on other occasions in ways that the individual who made them did not intend, the Kremlin leader’s words about Donbass self-determination are likely to have more serious consequences, Vadim Shtepa says.
On the Reforum portal, the editor of the Tallinn-based regionalist website Region.Expert says that by invoking the Kosovo precedent that those seeking to secede do not need the agreement of the country from which they want exit for Ukraine’s Donbass, Putin is creating problems for Russia in its regions and republics (reforum.io/blog/2022/05/21/chem-opasno-dlya-putina-priznanie-nezavisimosti-donbassa/).
That is because people in the regions and republics within the current borders of the Russian Federation have watched as Putin gutted their rights under the 1993 Constitution as he pursued a centralist and unitary policy, and they will be more than willing to quote Putin back to the Russian leader as far as their rights are concerned.
Most don’t want to secede but rather to cooperate with one another on the basis of democratic agreement rather than remain under imperial diktat. But Putin has handed them a weapon they are certain to use as part of negotiations toward the establishment of genuine federalism in Russia.
And to the extent that Putin refuses to allow for the emergence of such federalism, he will force ever more of them to think about exit, especially as he has now provided a justification in his own words for what currently only the most extreme want but what ever more are likely to if Putin’s dictatorial hyper-centralism continues.