Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Could Moscow Become a Russian Counterpart to US District of Columbia?

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 31 – Federation Council speaker Sergey Mironov has proposed a new twist to the possible unification of the Moscow and Moscow oblast by calling for the creation of a special status for that combined unit, one that would reflect its position as the capital of the country, much like the District of Columbia in the United States.
As Regions.ru reported in a survey of parliamentarians about the possible unification of the city and oblast of Moscow, Mironov believes that the combined region “should not be situated only under a regional administration.” Instead, he says, the new unit should have a special status, with its head having the rank of vice prime minister of Russian Federation.
Such a change, if it gained support in the parliament, could provide a means of kicking Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov upstairs even as it strengthened the federal government’s control over the capital and of helping restart Vladimir Putin’s currently stalled drive to amalgamate Russia’s federal subjects (www.regions.ru/news/2309865/)
Aleksandr Pochinok, who represents Krasnodar kray in the Federation Council says he agrees with Mironov that the city and oblast of Moscow should be combined, that this step should be approved by a referendum, and that “Moscow ought to have more rights in comparison with other regions.
Sergey Lisovsky, a senator from Kurgan oblast, agreed and said that there are “many pluses” to the idea of uniting the city and oblast and that the head of the newly combined entity, should have “completely different status and broader authority” than the leaders of other federal units given the special role of federal agencies within it.
Yevgeny Fedorov, a United Russia deputy in the Duma, however, said that he “does not see a particular need to strengthen the role of the federal center in the administration of Moscow,” given that in his view the city government has fully coped with its responsibilities. And if a union state of the three Slavic republics is created, he favors putting the capital in Kyiv.
Gadzhimet Safarliyev, another United Russia Duma deputy, also opposed the idea. “Having united the capital and the oblast,” he said, “we will have created a kind of ‘monster’ and we will obtain a kind of state within a state,” that will involve enormous financial expenses from the state budget.
Moreover, he continued, “the creation of a single region on the basis of Moscow and the oblast will automatically lead to the appearance of other united territories. Looking at Moscow, St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast, Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk oblast and perhaps someone else as well will want to unite.”
At the same time, however, he said that he did not “exclude the possibility” of increasing the role of the federal government in the management of Moscow. To that end, it would be “completely possible” to include the Moscow mayor in the federal government for Moscow is all the same the capital of the Russian state.”
But Communist Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin said he was “a categorical opponent” of uniting the city and the oblast into a single region. “If we were to create such ‘a monster,’ we would obtain a weak and unreliable administration in this region.” There is no need to amalgamate regions but rather to improve administration, as the struggle with the fires showed.
And Ilyukhin added that he considered it “impermissible” to strengthen the role of the federal government in Moscow’s administration. The federal authorities, he said, “have for a long time shown their weakness and incompetence and are not in a position to restore order in the capital.”

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