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Russia considers moving capital city

MOSCOW — What do you do when your capital city gets too polluted, too crowded and overrun by traffic? Russia has an answer: Move it, or at least part of it.

Moscow authorities are drawing up plans to move a number of official buildings, including the parliament and some of the government administration, out of the clogged centre to a “federal district” that would be built in a southeastern suburb.

Other officials have come up with even more radical ideas, such as moving the capital to the sparsely populated frozen wastes of Siberia or Russia’s Far East.

President Vladimir Putin has not yet announced his views on the matter and could yet veto any move. But nothing can be ruled out in a country that has moved its capital before, the last time less than a century ago.

“I believe the capital should be located somewhere further away, in Siberia,” Sergei Shoigu said shortly before he took over in March as governor of the Moscow region that surrounds the bustling city of 10.5 million.

Three capitals

Academic Sergei Karaganov says Russia should have three capitals – Moscow as the political, military and diplomatic center; St Petersburg in the west as the cultural centre; and the Pacific port city of Vladivostok as the new economic centre.

Having a capital close to Asia would reflect a global geopolitical shift in power away from Europe and be in line with Putin’s drive to breathe life into parts of Russia that are rich in natural resources but have small populations.

It would also coincide with his efforts to focus more on developing trade and political ties with China.

“If Peter the Great lived now, he would undoubtedly build the capital not in the Baltic region, but by the Pacific Ocean,” Karaganov wrote in an essay, referring to the tsar who built St. Petersburg as Russia’s “window on the West” three centuries ago. (Reuters)

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