The Speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Yegor Stroev, has repeated his earlier warning that the government’s policy of signing power-sharing treaties between the center and the regions threatens to turn Russia into a confederation. Stroev says the practice is fanning "nationalist sentiments" in the regions and could lead to the disintegration of the Russian Federation. He said the bilateral agreements are exacerbating existing inequalities between regions and dividing them ever more sharply into haves and have-nots. Even more serious, "The center becomes hostage to different interests and groups, ranging from financial oligarchies to criminal gangs," he said. (Itar-Tass, January 9)
Stroev is governor of Orel Oblast, which has not signed a power-sharing treaty and presumably has no intention of doing so. He is upset by the increasing tendency for regions to adopt their own laws. For example, Saratov Oblast has adopted a law authorizing the sale of agricultural land, to fill the vacuum created by the failure of the president and parliament to agree on a land code.
Stroev’s misgivings are not new. Since 1996 he has been the most vocal among provincial governors in opposing treaties delimiting powers between Moscow and the provinces. (NTV, January 10, 1997) Instead, he has advocated a "network" system between the regions, arguing that horizontal ties are fairer and more cohesive than vertical ones. So far, however, such inter-regional ties have been slow to develop.
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