Compared with all his other problems, Dmytro Firtash is probably not spending a lot of time worrying about his Tajik fertilizer factory. After all, the Ukrainian gas, chemicals and media magnate is now out on $172-million-bail in Vienna as he awaits a ruling on his potential extradition to the United States to face graft and organized-crime charges.
The United States and European Union have announced sanctions aimed at punishing a handful of Russians and Ukrainians for their roles in destabilizing Ukraine, where a weekend referendum in Crimea endorsed a plan by breakaway officials there to join the Russian Federation.
As the reality of the Vladimir Putin’s Crimean land grab sinks in, the most alarming aspect of it all is not the ease with which Russian troops seized the peninsula, but the way the Kremlin mobilized Russian public opinion behind its agenda.
When empires collapse, disputes over new borders – both political and cultural – are inevitable. Such disputes are especially acrimonious, and often turn violent, when the territory in dispute involves what the eminent French historian Pierre Nora called lieux de memoire – “places of memory” that are revered by citizens of a nation.