Staunton, February 18 – United Russia and Just Russia have agreed to Igor Barinov’s call that they sign a formal agreement committing themselves to avoiding any statements or actions in the upcoming Duma elections, but the KPRF and LDPR so far are refusing to do so, an indication that even the parliamentary parties won’t salute quite as fast as the Kremlin may want.
In an interview published in today’s “Izvestiya,” the head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs says that he hopes that they will come around but that even if they don’t, the monitoring of the media his institution is now doing will allow it to refer violations to the Central Election Commission which can block offenders from running (izvestia.ru/news/604086).
In the course of a wide-ranging interview, Barinov made the following additional points:
· He called the decision to expel Turkish students from Russian universities “a stupidity” because, if they were allowed to stay, “in the future they could become reliable agents of influence, elements of Russia’s south power on the territory of Turkey.” The Americans do that, he says; “why should we reject such mechanisms?”
· It is “stereotypical” thinking to assume that inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts are most common in the North Caucasus. “Practice shows that the regions of the central and eastern part of the country are not insured against them.” In those places there exist “’long-playing’ but not completely resolved disputes.”
· The Daghestani authorities had the right goals but acted in an unfortunate way by closing mosques without explaining to people why they had to do so. Anytime the government wants to do something like that, Barinov says, it must engage in “major preliminary work” – and that is what his agency is for.
· Kaliningrad is now close to resolving the dispute over the construction of a mosque there. It was wrong to agree to have it in the center of the city but absolutely correct to have a mosque for Muslims on the outskirts.
· The nationality affairs agency’s system for monitoring the meeting is currently working “in a test regime” in “more than half of the subjects of the federation.” Barinov says he hopes to have it up and running across the entire country this year. Such monitoring constitutes early warning of problems and thus will allow officials to prevent them from getting out of hand.
· His agency’s call for the authority to ban websites does not represent a tightening of government control over the Internet but rather will ensure that Moscow can intervene in a timely fashion.
· The nationality affairs agency is committed to working with the Cossacks to ensure the development of that community.
· “The problem of Siberian separatism doesn’t exist.” It only appears to do so because officials talk about it in the hopes of extracting more resources from the center, Barinov says.