Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 175

President Boris Yeltsin has created a presidium or “inner cabinet” of top government ministers and the heads of Russia’s eight regional economic associations. Clearly alarmed by the independent actions taken by Russia’s regional governors during the recent crisis, the federal government is trying to both give the regions a greater voice and involve their leaders in policymaking with the federal government. Eduard Rossel, governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast, will be a member of the presidium by virtue of his presidency of the Urals Regional Economic Association. He told NTV last night that he would attend presidium meetings regularly, “even though [he will] have to fly to Moscow every week.” Rossel had harsh words for those regional governors who have, in the last few weeks, attempted to protect their populations by forbidding the export of locally produced food and/or declaring their intention of withholding taxes from the federal government. Rossel said leaders who withheld taxes would face criminal charges. “Anyone who tries this on will soon come to his senses,” he predicted (NTV, September 23). Sverdlovsk is one of Russia’s “donor regions”–those which pay more into the federal budget than they receive back in federal transfers. The donor regions tend to be net importers of food. They stand to lose if food-producing regions put up barriers to interregional trade. Food-producing regions are, by contrast, typically poor. As such, they are large recipients of federal transfers. While the poor regions are not directly dependent on the rich ones, therefore, they do need the center. In this way, rich and poor regions can be seen as interdependent. This factor may militate against the break-up of the Russian Federation about which so much has recently been written.