Staunton, July 7 – Five news stories over the past few days suggest that Moscow faces a set of disasters in the Russian Far East that is likely to cast a shadow on the entire country by highlighting the failure of Kremlin policies in a variety of areas and raising questions about what the future holds not only for the Far East but for Russia as a whole.
The five, all reported in the Moscow media it should be said, include:
1. Because of the continuing decline in population in the region as a result of the dying out of the ethnic Russian population, officials in the Far East have taken the unusual step of simply shutting down more than hundred villages and ordering the remaining residents to relocate to larger towns or face the prospect that they will not have any services from the state, even though the government has no money to pay for what it has ordered (rg.ru/2016/07/07/reg-dfo/zakritie-neperspektivnye-sela.html).
2. “Novaya gazeta” reports that over the last 25 years, Russia has given over to China” via rental agreements “as much land as Beijing couldn’t take over the preceding 150 years,” an example, the Moscow paper says, which shows that “friendship is continuing.” Many Russians are unlikely to see it that way (novayagazeta.ru/politics/69085.html).
3. Already upset at Moscow’s willingness to allow China to ship water from Lake Baikal and other Russian waters, residents of the Russian Far East and not only they are certain to be infuriated by reports that Beijing is shifting its most polluting factories out of China into Russian areas where Russia and not China will bear the costs for their impact on the environment and the health of the population (izvestia.ru/news/621184).
4. Despite the fact that the economy in the Russian Far East is near collapse with numerous firms now listed as “potential bankruptcies” (newizv.ru/lenta/2016-07-06/242301-v-regionah-dalnego-vostoka-rastet-chislo-potencialnyh-bankrotov.html), rents for apartments in Vladivostok have risen to be in third place among all Russian cities, yet another indication of the growing gap between the incomes of the Russian rich and the rest of the population (newizv.ru/lenta/2016-07-06/242286-vladivostok-popal-v-top-gorodov-rossii-s-samymi-dorogimi-kvartirami.html).
5. Moscow’s acknowledgement today that only ten percent of Russia’s federal highways meet government standards is likely to further anger people in the Russian Far East. Not only are highways there in even worse shape than in most of the rest of the country (tass.ru/ekonomika/3435264), but the collapse of air routes in the region mean that residents there are increasingly dependent on and thus blocked from moving about by the road network.
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