Vladimir Putin at the Interethnic Relations Council in Ufa Tuesday, Oct. 22© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klimentyev
UFA, October 22 (RIA Novosti) – President Vladimir Putin signed a law Tuesday giving local authorities more responsibility for handling relations between ethnic communities in a sign the government is growing nervous at evidence of a surge in nationalist-tinged discontent.
Speaking at the Interethnic Relations Council in the Urals town of Ufa, Putin lashed out at local governments for what he said was their lackluster record in implementing the government’s long-term strategy to minimize tensions among the numerous ethnic groups living in Russia.
Authorities are still reeling from unrest in Moscow last week that saw a protest over police failure to apprehend a murder suspect descend into violence. Days after the killing, mobs of young men clashed with police and attacked a market warehouse where many migrants are employed amid rumors the murder was committed by a non-Russian.
The suspected killer was detained days after the unrest in the southern Moscow district of Biryulyovo and identified as a citizen of Azerbaijan.
Under the terms of the law signed Tuesday by Putin, municipal leaders will face dismissal for failing to stifle ethnic tensions.
The legislation empowers regional authorities to take measures to integrate migrants.
The law was adopted to ensure the implementation of Russia’s National Ethnic Policy Strategy through to 2025, the Kremlin said Tuesday. Putin complained that little progress has been made on the strategy so far and that only nine out of Russia’s 83 federal territories have forged specific plans.
“All we’re talking about are plans, about the initial required measures. If we look at the specific work done, the picture is far more depressing,” Putin told the Interethnic Relations Council.
Putin appeared to recognize that events in Biryulyovo was the outcome of failure by local authorities to address local concerns, about rampant migration among other things.
“Local authorities often prefer armchair leadership, which is of little or no use,” he said.
In the wake of Biryulyovo, vocal opposition candidate Alexei Navalny posted a petition on his website proposing a visa regime be introduced for migrant laborers coming to Russia from former Soviet nations in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.
Putin dismissed such suggestions, saying they would do little to solve migration issues. He instead urged better bureaucratic management over migration.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).