Next: Free Siberia?
Shelling in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk left two dead Sept. 17, despite a ceasefire and a law passed by Kiev's parliament a day earlier granting greater autonomy to the country's east. Fighting centered on the city's airport, which remains in government hands, with nearby neighborhoods caught in the crossfire. Civilian casualties have continued to rise since the supposed ceasefire, adding to the estimated 3,000 people killed in the conflict so far. (The Independent, Sept. 17) In an asburd irony little noted by the world media, as Vladiimir Putin backs the brutal "People's Republics" (sic) in eastern Ukraine, he has cracked down on a separatist movement that has emerged in Siberia. Last month, when the Ukraine crisis was at a peak, Russian authorities banned a Siberian independence march and took hrash measures to prevent the media from even reporting it—threatening to block the BBC Russian service over its coverage of the movement. BBC's offense was an interview with Artyom Loskutov, an organizer of the "March for Siberian Federalization," planned for Aug. 17 in Novosibirsk, The Guardian reported.
Russia's federal communications authority sent a letter demanding the interview be deleted for violating a recently passed law against "calls to mass unrest, extremist activities or participation in illegal public events." BBC reports that it defied the order, but it also seems that the planned march was effectively repressed. Novosibirsk municipal authorities apparently denied permission to hold the march "in order to ensure the inviolability of the constitutional order, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation."
Radio Free Europe also gets to gloat at measures to purge the Internet of reports on the protest:
Type the Russian words федерализация Украины (federalization of Ukraine) into Google and you will see over a million results -- many coming from Russian state news agencies and most dating from earlier this year, when Moscow responded to a change in government in Kyiv by annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and backing a pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.
Now go to the Russian version of Google News (news.google.ru) and do an August 1 search for федерализация Сибири (federalization of Siberia). Click on any of those links and you're likely to get a 404 error.
There's some ambiguity as to whether the march was entirely in earnest, or if it was intended to call out Putin on his support for the separatists in Ukraine (in which case it was certainly sucessful). But the Siberians might see plenty of reason to wish to be free of Russia. Indigenous peoples such as the Telengit and Evenk have protested Russian pipeline routes through their territory, which even threaten such world heritage treasures as Lake Baikal. Siberia's permafrost is melting with terrifying rapidity as an obvious result of global warming, so the territory's people have good reason to oppose Putin's plans to drill for oil in the Siberian Arctic. There have also been protests over Russian plans to dump nuclear waste in Siberia. The Free Siberia Facebook page does not seem to be entirely a joke...