Even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 had started as a tough year for vulnerable people in Asia. From the battle for the Rohingya rights at the International Court of Justice, to the assimilation of the state of Jammu&Kashmir in accordance with Narendra Modi’s nationalist agenda, the resurgence of sectarian politics over the last few years has aggravated ethnopolitical conflicts in the region.
The Covid-19 pandemic overturned the world as we knew it as much as governments resorted to extraordinary measures to stop infections and disease spreading. China was the first country to rely on such extraordinary measures, implementing strict lockdowns and employing sophisticated control technologies throughout the country.
All around the world the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the relationship balance between countries’ central authorities and peripheral regions. In the US as in Italy, fierce contradictions have been witnessed between regional and national authorities pertaining to the implementation of emergency measures, the shift to the so-called “phase 2” and economic recovery efforts.
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has already changed both foreign and internal relations all over the world, and the Russian Far East with its long Russo-Chinese border area is no exception.
The issue of centre-periphery relations in the Russian Federation has always featured prominently in Moscow’s political debates. And these debates are heating up during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Not only does Russia have the vastest territory in the world but it also boasts of an extraordinary ethnic, cultural and religious diversity to the extent that it has sometimes faced secessionist and centrifugal movements.
March 18, 2020, marked six years from the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. This year, the so-called “reunification” was celebrated without mass gatherings but still in the presence of President Vladimir Putin himself, despite the pandemic. The celebration had particular symbolic value for Putin who had announced his intention to remain in power until 2036 pending approval in a nationwide referendum (currently postponed due to COVID-19).
In one of our OSW reports, we called the Kaliningrad region a ‘captive island’, referring to its geographical and partly mental separation from the rest of Russia, combined with the tight control Moscow exercises over its political, economic and security spheres. In the distant 1990s, a time of regional autonomies, Kaliningrad enjoyed a considerable amount of self-governance.
The North Caucasus is the most ethnically diverse and restive region of the Russian Federation. Administratively it is organized into seven autonomous republics with varying degrees of ethnic heterogeneity and proneness to violence. Moscow waged two wars against separatist Chechnya in the two decades and eventually succeeded to secure control over the territory by installing and supporting a local strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, as the ruler of the republic.
As the editor-in-chief of China’s state-controlled tabloid “The Global Times” took to an op-ed to criticise Wuhan’s local party officials and central health authorities, international observers began to wonder whether they were confronting sophisticated propaganda aimed at laying responsibility away from the Politburo or whether the government was letting controversial material slip to blow off (some) discontent in a controlled fashion.
While there is never a good time for a country to face an epidemic, it could not come at a worse time for a country in transition like Sudan. Prior to the first cases of the coronavirus confirmed on 13 March, the country already faced a humanitarian and economic crisis. In February, the inflation rate was at 71% and prices were double those cited in 2019, according to the US-funded food monitoring body, the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS).