'Russia could fall apart'

President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff warned this week that Russia could break up into several different countries and proposed the creation of ‘super regions’’ to be headed by Kremlin appointees.

Dmitri Medvedev said, unless political and business elites work together, ‘Russia could disappear as a united country’‘.

The warning over Russia’s territorial integrity was interpreted by analysts as an attempt to shore up support in Russia’s elite for the Putin administration as a battle rages over who will head the Kremlin after his second term ends in 2008.

Medvedev told the magazine Expert: ‘Empires disappeared from maps when elites lost the ideas that united them and entered into mortal combat.’‘

He said the Kremlin was considering a plan under which Russia’s 89 regions may be merged into ‘super regions’‘. He said this could be ‘a way of developing the federation within the existing Constitution’‘.

The move would further increase Putin’s powers. In the wake of the Beslan tragedy, Parliament passed legislation that meant regional governors would be appointed by the president rather than elected.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political analyst, suggested that Medvedev’s comments were a scare tactic.
‘Nobody wants the country to fall apart, so whenever the bureaucrats want to defend [themselves or a policy] they use this.’‘

Some of Putin’s advisers are said to want him to stay on for a third term, perhaps as prime minister in a newly formed parliamentary republic.

But Beslan and popular discontent at benefit reforms have led to a drop in Putin’s popularity. Medvedev admitted that Putin’s team was divided on several issues. ‘This is good. We are not the central committee of the Communist party, and we do not think uniformly.’’ —

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