New law will be “end of Russian federalism,” says North Russian MP

People walk in front of the Russian State Duma in this 2021 file photo. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

The State Duma has approved a bill on regional government that opens up for appointment of life-long regional leaders and a significant tightening of Moscow’s grip on power across the country.

With a large majority, Russian legislators on the 11th of November adopted the bill that significantly strengthens Moscow’s control over the regions. The Law on Public Power will allow regional leaders to remain in power indefinitely. If they comply with the desires of the federal center. At the same time, the President will get expanded authority to sack the leaders that he no longer has confidence in.

In addition, federal ministries will be entitled to appoint managers of their corresponding regional authorities. And the regional leaders will no longer be named “governors”, but instead only “heads of federal subjects,” the State Duma informs.

In the first reading, a total of 317 legislators approved the bill. Among the 66 votes against the new law were mostly representatives of the Communist Party.

Mikhailov speak out

A vocal representative of that opposition is Oleg Mikhailov, the politician from the Komi Republic that was elected to the State Duma in September this year.

According to Mikhailov, who for years has been a sharp critic of Putin and his United Russia Party, the new Law on Public Power threatens to put an “end to federalism in Russia.”

“For Komi as a national republic this law is of great significance,” he said in a public meeting in downtown Syktyvkar, the regional capital, on the 20th of November.

Komi is one of the country’s 21 republics that has enjoyed special national status since the Russian Constitution was adopted in 1993. This system is now in jeopardy, Mikhailov warns. “It will be the last nail in the coffin of federalism in Russia,” he told Kommersant.

Many people assembled around the popular politician as he last week started to speak in the central square. However, as policemen approached, Mikhailov soon moved away from the area, 7×7-journal reports

The negative attitude towards the new federal law has been voiced by the 34-year old politician also on his media channel, the Novaya Respublika blog. In weekly talk shows broadcasted on social media, Mikhailov has continued to lash out against the current state of affairs in the country.

‘Russia needs federalism’

Reactions against the law have been strong across the country, and especially in several of the 21 republics. On the 11th of November, an activist staged a one-person protest against the legislation in Syktyvkar. According to Svyatoslav Krasikov, a member of the New Republic movement, the rights of his region and its people are being infringed.

“As an indigenous inhabitant of the Komi Republic, I am filled with indignation,” he told 7×7-journal. “I believe Russia needs federalism,” he underlined. During the protest, he wore a jacket with the national Komi flag.

Both Krasikov and MP Mikhailov strongly react to recent statements made by Parliament Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. According the powerful politician, the regions were instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“When talking about the federation, lets have a look at the issues. Lets analyse the disintegration of the Soviet Union [and] the republics, national republics, the self-determination of the nations. Mistakes embedded in the very foundation of the country [USSR] led to its collapse,” Volodin said in a recent parliament discussion, 7×7-journal reports.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Joe Savikataaq reflects on COVID-19, ransomware and 3 years as premier of Nunavut, Canada, CBC News

Finland: With cooperative spirit, Finland targets Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Norwegian army starts training with anti-tank mines near Russia border, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Arctic Sweden to welcome thousands of international troops for Northern Wind exercise, The Independent Barents Observer

United StatesRussian, U.S. foreign ministers to meet on sidelines of Arctic Council meeting, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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