Staunton, November 25 – Residents of Vladivostok’s Russian Island to which Vladimir Putin had an enormous bridge built a few years ago are still suffering from the ice storm that hit the region a week ago and have decided to demand that their still-isolated island be renamed after opposition figure Aleksey Navalny in the hopes of getting Moscow’s attention.
So far, the bridge has not been reopened, electricity and internet connectivity are still down, and heat has only just been restored. People can get food, but local stores have raised their prices to the point that many can’t afford it. And the behavior of Moscow and its representatives in the region have outraged the population (readovka.ru/news/65166 and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5FBE403EF3D79).
Moscow’s failure to act quickly and do more for the people of Vladivostok and the Russian Island shows, Russian commentator and frequent Kremlin critic Igor Yakovenko says, that “for the Kremlin, Vladivostok isn’t Russia and the Russian Island isn’t Russian either” (ej2020.ru/?a=note&id=35615).
Yakovenko notes that international media responded to the events in the Russian Far East quite quickly, but the Russian government didn’t say anything until four days after the storm hit. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told Aleksey Chekunov, the minister for the Far East and the Arctic, to visit the region and see what could be done.
But Chekunov, not wishing to interrupt his weekend, delayed another day and arrived in Vladivostok only on November 23, five days after the storm hit and left the people of the region in the cold and dark and increasingly hungry as well. He compounded that mistake by suggesting that the storm was not an accident but something “completely predictable.”
He compiled a list of what local officials said they needed to solve the problems and then flew back to Moscow, prompting an explosion of criticism online that included vocabulary that could become “an important supplement to Plutser-Sarno’s Great Dictionary of Russian Curse Words, Yakovenko continues.
But perhaps more seriously, the Russian commentator says, many in their posts asked why Vladimir Putin could send more than a billion US dollars to Syria’s Asad and 1.5 billion to Belarus’ Alyaksandr Lukashenka but for people within the borders of is own country could do no more than send Minister Chekunov.
It would be far better, they said, “to send Chekunov to Asad and Lukashenka and send the 2.5 billion US dollars to the needs of the residents of the Far East.”