When Russian liberalism doesn’t stop at border with Ukraine or at ring road around Moscow

A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru)

A heavily-protected Russian entry point into the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea annexed by Russia in March 2014 (Image: Kommersant.ru) 

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It is often said and with some justification that “Russian liberalism ends at the borders with Ukraine” – that is, that Russian liberals support liberal values until it becomes a question of Moscow’s dominance over non-Russians within and beyond the borders of the Russian Federation and even over Russians who live beyond the capital’s ring road.

All too often in the pursuit of support among the Russian population, Russian liberals have supported the imperialist and hyper-centralist positions of Vladimir Putin, promising only that when they come to power, they will treat Russia’s neighbors and Russia’s regions more generously.

But this past week, at the Free Russia Forum in Vilnius, Russian liberals took a major step away from the typically unacknowledged Moscow-centric view of the world that their predecessors have so often reflected, adopting a declaration on Ukraine that condemns Putin’s aggression and annexation and featuring a discussion of regional interests within Russia.

The declaration reads as follows:

The Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine is an international crime.

Certain Russian political and public activists have not decided to make a principled assessment of the annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine. The Free Russia Forum considers it necessary to make such an assessment guided by the criteria of law and morality.

The Kremlin’s war against Ukraine violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, the declaration on the founding of the CIS, the Budapest memorandum, bilateral Russian-Ukrainian agreements, and the Russian criminal code show that Moscow’s actions fall under the definition of aggression given by the UN General Assembly.

The occupation and annexation of the territory of Ukraine, accompanied by mass repressions against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians which have led to the loss of more than 10,000 lives has become a shameful blot on Russian history.

The war must be immediately ended. Russian forces must be withdrawn from all the territory of Ukraine, including Crimea and the Donbas, and the internationally recognized Russian-Ukrainian border must be restored.

The future free Russia will see to restore good-neighborly relations with Ukraine on the basis of the principles of international law.

May 26, 2017

Perhaps equally important as an indication in changes in the views of those who call themselves Russian liberals was a panel at the Vilnius conference devoted to regional and ethnic issues within Russia.

The panel included representatives of Russia’s regions and republics and featured calls for a new federation treaty among the federal units rather than between them and Moscow as the current one does and for an end to the Russian ban on regional parties so that the peoples of the Russian Federation can advance their diverse interests.


Edited by: A. N.

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