Mar 10, 2022 - News

Dear Russian sister city: A letter to Stavropol from Des Moines

Illustration of a letter with a stamp featuring the Axios logo.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Des Moines metro is distancing itself from its sister city of Stavropol, Russia, in a signal of support for Ukraine.

  • But the decision inspired intense debate this week among members of the Greater Des Moines Sister Cities, who agreed to write Stavropol to explain their conflicts and hopes for reunification.

We thought we'd draft our own, in the spirit of Smart Brevity™.

Dear Stavropol,

You are suspended from the Greater Des Moines Sister Cities program via a unanimous vote from the Des Moines City Council this week.

  • Iowa's state government additionally terminated its relationship with you at the directive of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Why it matters: Perhaps the decisions seem to contradict the intent of the program, which is to facilitate dialogues with other cultures and countries.

  • But the assaults against Ukraine by your country's government are too great to ignore, both Des Moines and Iowa officials have said.

State of play: People like Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie have reached out to you, hoping you might denounce the invasion and possible war crimes against civilians.

  • But so far, you've been unresponsive.

What they're saying: Greater DSM Sister Cities members said during a meeting Tuesday that they very strongly desire to reunite and continue your 30-year partnership in the program.

  • Your silence is likely fear driven and about survival, member Vidal Spaine said.

Of note: Not everyone agrees with the decisions to suspend or terminate your relationship.

  • Now — more than ever — is the time that sister city programs should lend empathy to Russian citizens who have no say in the war yet will undoubtedly suffer, reader Anthony Spoerl told Axios Des Moines.

The big picture: Iowa's actions aren't isolated. Sarasota, Florida suspended its relationship with Vladimir, Russia, this week, while Colorado Springs, Colorado, has suspended Smolensk and Chicago has suspended Moscow.

The bottom line: Iowans want to hear from you. Write back, soon.


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