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LIVY BEREG
LIVY BEREG (Left Bank) is a Ukrainian news analysis and opinion website media founded by the independent Gorshenin Institute in 2009.
Kalmyks attend the unveiling ceremony of a Buddha statue
Geopolitics
Pavel Lysyansky

Fall Of The Empire? Ethnic Separatism On The Rise In Russia

Far from being a unified state, Russia is full of federal subjects — many of which have spawned separatist movements. Moscow, far from Siberia or the Caucasus and focused on Ukraine, is finding it harder to contain them.

They began to show up more and more in 2019: people were displaying symbols of separatism at protests in different regions of Russia. One example that marked this movement were the flags of the Ural People's Republic at protests during the spring of 2019 against the construction of a temple in Yekaterinburg, the industrial city in the Ural mountains 1,100 miles east of Moscow.

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The Russian Federation consists of 85 federal subjects, consisting of republics, krais, oblasts and cities of federal importance (two located on the Crimean peninsula are not internationally recognized). Every federal subject has its own head, a Parliament and Constitutional Court. The system was an attempt made in Soviet times to solve the problem of the country's ethnic and economic diversity by forming national republics.

So, the population of the Russian Federation does not consider a federal center or federation as a core value. For that reason, in some territories people may perceive their separation from Russia as quite possible.

In the Russian regions, traditionally inhabited by Muslim ethnic groups, Islamic radicalism and ethno-national separatism are sometimes mistakenly considered the same. For example, in the Russian Altai in southern Siberia, the idea of creating a common ethnic state of all Turkic peoples is widespread. Along with the Turks, Buryats, Kalmyks, it is also possible to join the Manchu-Tungus who are located near Russia.

Still, the ideology of pan-Islamism is being actively promoted in some of these areas, aiming to unite Muslims around the world into one Islamic state headed by a caliph.

 Emissaries of Wahhabism 

Siberian regional separatism is also actively developing near Russia. It is based on Siberian Russians as a distinct nation suppressed by the federal center and the European part of the Russian Federation.

Separatism is the extreme point of nationalism.

In the Volga republics of Mordovia, Mari El and Udmurtia, there are active preachers of Wahhabism. They seek to convert the titular peoples of these republics to Islam in order to integrate them into the movement of Islamic separatism.

This movement is based on those who are dissatisfied with the policy of the federal center. In particular, the transfer of financial flows to Moscow and subsidies to the republics of the North Caucasus. In the Russian regions of Russia, ideologies about individual nations are actively spreading: Volgars, Urals, Pomors. These movements appeal to the fundamental ethnic identity of people, bringing them closer to Finno-Hungarian nationalism. It should be noted that separatism is the extreme point of nationalism.

In addition to the above directions and currents of separatism in Russia, it is worth considering Wahhabism separately. The emissaries of Wahhabism believe that the Muslims of Russia and the post-Soviet countries live in anti-Islamic states, whose laws are sinful to follow.

Wahhabis are using educational programs to nurture a generation of new spiritual leaders. Currently, Wahhabis are successfully working with the population (especially with young people), and their main goal is to penetrate into the power structures of Russia at the federal and regional levels.

\u200bInternational conference of Sunni scholars in Grozny, Chechnya

International conference of Sunni scholars held in Grozny, Chechnya

Talib Ghaffari/Facebook

Regional elite vs. Moscow

Since the Kremlin launched the large-scale military aggression against Ukraine, socio-economic and political tensions have been growing in Russia, increasing the probability of a revolutionary situation. Russian political and business elites in the regions are not consolidated in solving general national problems because some of them have long been waiting for the possibility of confederalism or separatism processes with the subsequent secession of some territories. However, the main indicator of ethnic and classical separatism in Russia is the weakening of the Federal Center, which is taking place now.

The processes of regional and ethnic separatism within Russia are constantly intensifying.

Social tensions are aggravated by uncontrolled migration. In the large Russian cities, there are entire enclaves of migrants from neighboring countries, which creates the conditions for protests under the "French scenario". According to preliminary data, there are more than 3.5 million migrant workers in Moscow, most of whom are illegal. This number is quite enough to conduct protests. The migrants are mostly from Central Asia and the Middle East, which only intensifies ethno-separatism.

Ethnic separatism manifests in the impossibility of performing the main functions of the country since the regional elite of remote regions Russia will not follow the instructions of the federal center if it is weakened. Such regions include, first of all, the republics of the North Caucasus.

Another indicator of the high level of ethno-separatism in Russia is the presence of ethnocracies that secure access to local resources for the ruling elites in the region. Attempts by the federal center to de-ethnicize power in these regions have led to a surge of nationalism and confrontation with local ethnic clans whose intention is to defend their power and property.

The processes of regional and ethnic separatism within Russia are constantly intensifying. Their real surge can be expected after the mass arrival of "cargo 200" and "cargo 300" (code words used in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet states referring to the transportation of military fatalities) back to the remote republics of Russia. Similar processes have already taken place during the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Photo of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on May 9
Geopolitics
Daria Badior and Ksenia Bilash

Why Macron's New EU Membership Scheme Is All About Appeasing Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a new European Political Community, with support from Germany's Olaf Scholz, that would include Ukraine in a second-tier union. No, this is not about European "core values" — it's just the latest attempt by the EU's two biggest players to be sure not to upset Vladimir Putin.

-OpEd-

KYIV — French President Emmanuel Macron said that Ukraine's accession to the European Union will take years, if not decades. He also proposed the creation of a new union on the continent — the European Political Community, which may include countries that must wait to join the EU, or which have left (like the UK).

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At the same time, according to Macron's plan, joining the new union will mean other states cannot gain membership to the European Union.

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Russia Warns Finland Over Joining NATO
In The News

Russia Warns Finland Over Joining NATO

Sharing an 800-mile border with Russia, the Nordic country has seen public support for NATO membership skyrocket following the invasion of Ukraine. Neighboring Sweden also looks set to join the military alliance later this month. Both countries had for decades avoided NATO membership for fear of provoking Russia.

Finland looks certain to join NATO after the country’s president and prime minister released a joint statement saying they are in favor of joining the military alliance.

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“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. NATO leaders indicated that the application would be approved rapidly.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned "corresponding symmetrical responses on our side," to Finland's accession to the military alliance.

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Photo of a man walking past destroyed houses in Irpin
Society
Dariya Badyor and Kseniya Bilash

Beyond Post-Soviet: Ukraine's Architectural Opportunity From The Rubble Of War

The war rages on, but some in Ukraine are already looking to how society can be rebuilt. Two Ukrainian architects share their vision for what a future Ukrainian urbanism — and society — might look like.

KHARKIV — Russian bombings have already destroyed thousands of Ukrainian houses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The war is still far from over, so we know the losses will only increase. And yet, we must use the time before victory arrives to plan for the rebuilding of our cities.

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This viewpoint is shared by Iryna Matsevko and Oleg Drozdov, heads of the Kharkiv School of Architecture, one of the few Ukrainian universities recognized internationally as meeting the highest standards in the field. The architects share their opinion that not just Ukrainian houses should be restored — so too should Ukrainian society.

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Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War
In The News
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Territory Gains And Losses Point To Long War

Russia says it has conquered new territory in Donbas, while Ukraine says it has retaken parts of the city of Kharkiv. The competing claims come as Vladimir Putin appears to be bracing for a long "protracted" conflict.

Some press reports come from the battlefield, some come from headquarters.

The latter was the source for the lead story in today’s The New York Times that declared “Ukraine War’s Geographic Reality: Russia Has Seized Much of the East,” based on an assertion of the Russian Defense Ministry that “its forces in eastern Ukraine had advanced to the border between Donetsk and Luhansk,” the two provinces of Donbas.

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The article continues with an important caveat: “If confirmed,” the report signals that Russia could soon gain control over the entire Donbas region, which could put Moscow in position to force Kyiv to agree to its terms at the negotiating table.

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​Photo of a man withdrawing Russian rubles
Geopolitics
Oleksandr Detsyk

How Sanctions Are Quietly Destroying Russia's Economy

The European Union has prepared the sixth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes restrictions on Russian oil imports, as well as disconnecting more Russian banks from the SWIFT bank circuit. The effectiveness of these measures are not always visible, but they are real ... and potentially fatal .. for the Russian economy.

-Analysis-

KYIV — Are sanctions working? To answer that question, it makes sense to first ask which sanctions have been most effective so far?

Economic sanctions against Russia for its aggression toward Ukraine began to be imposed immediately after the 2014 occupation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war in Donbas, but those cannot be considered effective. In any case, they did not deter Moscow’s invasion in 2022.

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But the sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and their allies since February 24 have already hit the aggressor's economy significantly. The blocking of Russia's foreign exchange assets abroad has become the most painful. According to various estimates, this has affected about half of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, worth around $300 billion.

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A Donbas Quagmire? Running Out Of Water, Supplies, Men
In The News
Irene Caselli, Anne-Sophie Gominet, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

A Donbas Quagmire? Running Out Of Water, Supplies, Men

As Russian forces continue their offensive in Donbas without securing any significant territorial gains, the situation on the ground is growingly dire for civilians left behind.

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Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg reports on significant water, food and other supply shortages in the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. Tap water has been scarce since the beginning of Russian occupation on February 24, and it is now available only every three days. Residents collect rainwater or otherwise buy it when they can afford to.

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Photo of Ukrainian troops
In The News
Emma Albright, Anna Akage and Shaun Lavelle

Two Big Signs The Ukraine War Could Last "For Years"

Two key points in the past 24 hours offer a sense that the war in Ukraine won’t be ending anytime soon. From Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden has proposed an unprecedented $33-billion military and humanitarian aid package to Kyiv. Such a financial commitment, which Biden acknowledged was “not cheap,” is part of a shift from the U.S. over the past 10 days to massive support for President Volodomyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian military, in an effort to defeat Russia on the battlefield.

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“The high dollar amount requested also sends a signal to Russia that the United States intends to back Ukraine in the fight for the long run,” writes U.S. news site Politico. “It will also likely boost Ukrainians who say they want to defeat Russia, not merely settle for a long-term stalemate.”

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