Bashkirs Demand Removal of ‘Careerist’ FSB Head from Their Republic

The Union of Bashkir Youth is calling for the removal of the head of the republic FSB because, its members say, he is provoking extremism in Bashkortostan where it has not existed in order to win plaudits for suppressing it from his bosses in Moscow and thus promotion to a more senior post somewhere else in the Russian Federation.

In a statement released yesterday, the group says that “there is no extremism in Bashkortostan and has never been any. But then Major General V.N.Palagin arrived in the republic to serve and in the course of 18 months, extremism appeared,” not on its own but thanks to his efforts.

“It is understandable that any major general of the FSB dreams of becoming a lieutenant general, of receiving orders, medals, prizes and extra financing,” the appeal says. But by his actions in provoking extremism so that he can show himself capable of fighting it, Palagin is creating a situation that Bashkirs will have to live with after he moves on.

It is clear, the statement continues, that Palagin does not care about the well-being of Bashkortostan or even of the Russian Federation of which Bashkortostan is a part but only is concerned about his own promotion. Tragically, it is clear that he “knows what he is doing.” But he has made two critical mistakes, and they may prove his undoing.

On the one hand, he has failed to keep the promises he has made to Bashkirs, preferring instead to blame all problems on “the low level of qualification of his own cadres.” And on the other, he appears to have forgotten that the FSB in Ufa has many Bashkir and Russian officers who are appalled by what their boss is doing and have shared their concerns.

Palagin’s campaign of oppression has involved searches in the homes and apartments of individual Bashkirs, attacks on representatives of the national media, the preparation and brining of false charges against individuals and groups, and other violations of the Russian Constitution and laws.

“Such crude pressure from the side of the law enforcement agencies has not taken place in Bashkortostan since the times of the NKVD and MGB,” the Union says. “But now these are not Stalinist times!” And people can and must protest to protect their rights and the rights of their community.

Writing letters and appeals, the group says, is important, “but we will not stop at that!” And they warn that “Bashkortostan society must take the most extreme measures within the limits of the law to defend its rights!” Whether the powers that be will allow that, however, remains to be seen.

(On February 12, the Ufa authorities refused to allow the Union of Bashkir Youth to stage one demonstration, citing irregularities in the application turned in by the group. But more recently, the Bashkortostan government has given permission for two pickets on February 18 and February 19)

At the moment, the appeal continues, the Union of Bashkir Youth is especially outraged that Palagin, despite all he says about fighting extremism, has allowed two anti-Bashkir sites to continue to function and to attack two of the most respected heroes of the Bashkir nation, Salavat Yulaev and Akhmet-Zeki Validi.

And the group continues that it like other Bashkirs are furious that Palagin sent a letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggesting that the Moscow leader should not come to Bashkortostan because of what Palagin said was “the unstable political situation and growth of extremist attitudes in the republic.”

Such actions show, the Union argues, that Palagin must not be “permitted to remain in his post, and the appeal calls on “the Bashkir people, its intelligentsia, women and young, indeed, all who are not indifferent to the fate of their native republic” to join with the Union in pushing for Palagin’s replacement.

In doing so, the Union says, it wants to make clear that “the members of the organization are patriots of the Republic of Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation and always train young people in that spirit. We never speak against any nation; we never speak against the Constitutional system of Russia.”

Instead, the organization stresses, “we always have been for friendship among peoples; we never ask for any special privileges for ourselves. As patriots of Russia we are proud and strongly support that course which V[ladimir] Putin laid the foundation for while president for the restoration of the prestige of Russia on the international arena.”

“Our final goal,” the group says, is Palagin’s retirement. “We will achieve this goal however much effort and time it takes.” The group notes that it is inspired by the recent actions of the people of Kaliningrad and Tomsk and by the heroic actions of Bashkirs in the past like Yulayev and Validi. For all those reasons, Bashkirs cannot fail to seek Palagin’s ouster.

Paul Goble

Source: Window on Eurasia


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