Russian President Vladimir Putin has had enough of the nice talks and being large-hearted. Now Moscow is moving towards putting their interests at the centre stage and having the hard talks with the concerned parties which were delayed for a long time. For a while, Russia has been making nudges to remind the Chinese Communist Party to not attempt any adventure in the Far East, and now with the demand to 1 million illegal migrants to leave the country, the message is clearer than ever.
Alexander Gorovoy, Russia’s Deputy Interior Minister, has asked the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) leadership to cooperate with their citizens who are illegally living in Russia. According to Gorovoy, more than 1 million illegal immigrants from CIS countries currently reside in Russia. Because of the pandemic, Russia has imposed a moratorium on the deportation of illegal immigrants, which will last until June 15. Illegal immigrants are free to leave Russia after that date and will not face penalties.
While this may be a direct appeal or warning to the immigrants from the CIS region, the message should have reached China and Xi Jinping that if they try to do something funny or provoke the region of Far East, then similar steps can be taken against the people who have immigrated from China to the Far East of Russia.
To put things in context, one must understand that Moscow is insecure about China’s attempts to grow its influence in Russia’s scarcely populated and resource-rich Far East region. Vladivostok is itself a matter of Sino-Russian tensions, as Chinese wolf-warriors have in the recent past staked claim upon the Russian Far East Capital.
Earlier late last year, Hu Xijin, Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese Foreign Ministry tabloid, Global Times, even chose to call Vladivostok by the Chinese pseudonym- Haishenwei. Russia itself responded to Beijing’s illegitimate ambitions in the Russian Far East by stepping up its military presence in the region. Putin must have realised that Xi Jinping’s increasing interest in Russia’s the Far East is part of China’s aspirations to become a “near-Arctic state.” As a result, China must be held at bay in both the Russian Far East and the Arctic region from a Russian viewpoint. At the same time, the Putin administration would refrain from publicly criticising China. Moscow cannot afford to officially snub China as the entire free world, with the exception of India, has isolated Russia.
Read more: ‘Failed’ Joint Defence Partnerships form Putin’s strategy to keep China within Russia’s grip
According to a 2002 survey, the Russian Far East has a population of 7.4 million people, while China’s north-eastern provinces have a population of 102.4 million. Although the population density in Russia’s Far East is just 1.2 people per square kilometre, the population density in China’s northeast is 124.4 people per square kilometre. According to a 2009 survey, over 100,000 new foreign migrants enter the Russian Far East each year, with Chinese migrant workers accounting for over 90% of the total.
Last year Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu iterated that the decision has been taken because of tensions in the “eastern strategic direction”, referring to an area encompassing Russia’s eastern border with China and the wider Asia-Pacific and since then Russia has been increasing its military presence in the region.
Now, in light of the diplomatic compulsions that the Kremlin faces, Moscow decided to explicitly target the CIS region and its immigrants. However, the implied message was directed at Beijing- stay away from the Russian Far East and was a warning to all illegal Chinese immigrants living in the Far East to leave or get punished.
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