NewsPutin's pre-emptive strike on home turf. Russia rolls out anti-separatism units amid rising internal diversity

Putin's pre‑emptive strike on home turf. Russia rolls out anti-separatism units amid rising internal diversity

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
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11:57 AM EST, January 9, 2024

Russia has a very diverse population. As per recent census data, slightly above 70 percent of the population identifies as Russian. This makes up almost 104 out of 144 million inhabitants in the country.

Nearly a third do not identify as Russian or consider themselves of another ethnicity. This includes Armenians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars, Chuvashes, Avars, and more. Given this diversity, it isn't surprising that Russia could harbor conditions for separatist movements.

Putin, wary of separatists, takes a crucial step

The independence aspirations of different Russian regions have the potential to destabilize the country from within. The Chechen war is a stark reminder of this; Chechnya long refused to acknowledge the Kremlin's authority over its territory.

Aware of this threat, Vladimir Putin, alleged Russian war criminal and president, understands the implications of even minor disturbances. He knows they could ignite the metaphorical powder keg he sits on.

He made an urgent, decisive move to prevent a splintering of the state. Following Putin's specifications, squads have been formed to counter separatist activities. They have been set up in Buryatia, a republic near Mongolia's border, and the Voronezh and Oryol regions in the country's west.

Putin sanctioned the creation of these units in October. Their mandate is to meet once a month to tackle "separatism, nationalism, mass riots, and extremist crimes".

The Institute for the Study of War reports that many ethnic minority representatives like Buryats, Chechens, Ingush, and others are being conscripted into the Russian army. This strategy seems aimed at suppressing anti-war sentiments amongst ethnic Russians.

However, deploying minorities to war could also backfire and fuel separatist sentiments. In Buryatia, for instance, an organization named "Free Buryatia" has already formed in opposition to the war.

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