Staunton, January 10 – Moscow has removed senior officials in Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk who have sought to limit Chinese involvement there, actions they took in response to growing demands by Russian communities in these two federal subjects that Chinese logging be limited or even ended altogether.
In response, US-based Russian analyst Aleksandr Nemets reports, local bloggers are saying that some activists have gone so far as to set fire to lumber already harvested and set to be exported to China, making a profit for other officials in the regions and in Moscow but despoiling the environment there (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5E1776B82B9F0).
Last summer, Nemets reports, Tatyana Davidenko, head of the accounting office in Krasnoyarsk, attempted to mobilize opinion against kray governor Aleksandr Uss for his deference to Chinese interests. She issued a series of YouTube statements. In response, Moscow and Uss had her removed so that the Chinese could continue to operate.
On the clips, Nemets reports, Davidenko showed how Uss and other regional officials and businessmen have allowed the Chinese to operate “off the books” without licenses in order to make super profits by ignoring rules governing the harvesting of timber in that federal subject and thus creating conditions for the massive forest fires that swept the area in 2019.
Some local Russians, Nemets says the blogosphere reports, have decided to “fight fire with fire,” setting alight timber the Chinese have harvested but not yet managed to take back to China. “Local bloggers,” he says, “are calling this a partisan war” against China and against Moscow which supports China. People there have also organized large protest meetings.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Irkutsk, Moscow removed the communist governor. Among the reasons it did so was because he too opposed Chinese business operations in the region. The Irkutsk population supported him and opposed both Chinese businesses and Moscow’s support of them.
Apparently, Irkutsk residents did not set fires to lumber yards but they did attack places where Chinese businesses were assembling the lumber for export, creating delays and infuriating both Chinese and Moscow business and political leaders. According to Nemets, similar stories are now coming out of Khakassia and Tyva.
“I do not know how events will develop in Eastern Siberia in 2020,” the US-based Russian analyst says. “The positions of China here are very strong, and Moscow is on China’s side, something that is characteristic of the insanity of the Putin regime. But obviously, the southeastern regions [of the Russian Far East] have already passed the point of no return.”