Amy Knight

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Vladimir Putin has never faced a serious challenge to his power. But his disastrous war in Ukraine could change that.

The chances of a popular uprising against the Kremlin remain low. A recent poll from Russia’s independent Levada Center shows that 83 percent of Russians approved of Putin’s performance as president in March, up from 71 percent in the previous month. Most Russians have minimal access to information outside of state-controlled propaganda, and anyone who dares to take to the streets faces draconian punishments.

The most likely threat to his rule comes from within the regime. Russia’s history offers some insights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entourage never tires of railing against the West. Take, for example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Here’s what he wrote in an essay last June: “In a number of Western countries, students learn at school that Jesus Christ was bisexual. Attempts by reasonable politicians to shield the younger generation from aggressive LGBT propaganda are met with bellicose protests from the ‘enlightened Europe.’” The United States, Lavrov continued, is “openly seeking to drive a wedge into the [Russian] Orthodox world, whose values are viewed as a powerful spiritual obstacle for the liberal concept of boundless permissiveness.”

A meticulously documented report published last September by the team of imprisoned Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny casts doubt on Lavrov’s sincerity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sergei Bobylev/TASS via Getty Images. Baring Vostok founder Michael Calvey at a Moscow district court hearing following his arrest on fraud charges, Russia, February 15, 2019

On Thursday, a Moscow court denied an appeal by defense lawyers for American financier Michael Calvey requesting his release on bail pending a mid-April hearing on serious fraud charges that carry a possible sentence of up to ten years’ imprisonment. Calvey, the founder of Baring Vostok Capital Partners, one of Russia’s oldest and largest investment firms, was arrested on February 14, along with five colleagues, for allegedly defrauding Vostochny Bank, in which Baring Vostok has a majority stake (52.5 percent), of 2.5 billion rubles (or about $38 million).

The very day of Calvey’s stunning arrest, the Russian Investment Forum, a platform for promoting Russia’s business and investment opportunities, was holding its annual meeting, in Sochi, attended by world business leaders and top Russian officials.…  Seguir leyendo »

Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images. Russian police officers detaining a supporter of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny during an unauthorized rally in St. Petersburg, October 7, 2017

After late September’s arrest of Aleksei Navalny, the charismatic anti-corruption crusader who has declared himself a candidate for the Russian presidency, some Russian commentators thought that the Kremlin had made a serious mistake. Aleksandr Gorny, a blogger for the radio website Ekho Moskvy, observed: “Navalny influences the minds of millions, more precisely tens of millions, of Russians, mostly young people…. Those who arrested Aleksei yesterday do not understand that they are unleashing the mechanisms of the self-destruction of the regime…. In arresting Navalny, the authorities only raise his ratings among youth and [other] supporters.” From a long-term perspective, Gorny is probably right.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nikita Shvetsov/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images. Alexei Ulyukaev at Zamoskvoretsky District Court, Moscow, September 7, 2017

As the sensational trial of former Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukaev continued this week in Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court, it seemed more and more like a replay of the infamous show trials of the Stalin period—the charges bogus, the outcome predetermined. Ulyukaev is the first Kremlin minister to be charged with a crime while in office since Lavrenty Beria was arrested in 1953. He is accused of taking a $2 million bribe from Igor Sechin, the CEO of the Rosneft oil company, in exchange for facilitating Rosneft’s purchase of controlling shares in the state oil company Bashneft. Ulyukaev was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on November 14 last year after he walked out of Rosneft’s Moscow headquarters with the cash, and has been under house arrest since.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Grozny, Russia, May 17, 2017. Musa Sadulayev/AP Images

The Chechen government’s brutal campaign against gays has understandably aroused a strong reaction in the West. In recent months, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a notorious strongman closely allied with the Kremlin, has directed his police forces to round up gay men, torture them, and sometimes even kill them. In mid-April, former US vice-president Joe Biden said that he was “disgusted and appalled” by reports of the brutal crackdown and urged President Donald Trump to raise the issue directly with the Kremlin, though Trump did not respond. And on May 2, in a meeting with Russian President Putin in Sochi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed her concerns about the persecution of Chechen gays: “I…spoke about the very negative report about what is happening to homosexuals in Chechnya and asked Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Amid the political and diplomatic chaos in the US since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, Russian leadership has been experiencing its own turmoil, until recently kept under wraps, but now emerging into the open. To be sure, Russian President Vladimir Putin is still firmly in power, as evidenced by his hour-long conversation last Saturday with Trump and by Putin’s high ratings in opinion polls (which far surpass Trump’s). Yet we have now learned that, since the US election, there has been an unprecedented, and perhaps still continuing shakeup of top officials in Putin’s main security agency, the FSB, and that a top former intelligence official in Putin’s entourage died recently in suspicious circumstances.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers detain an activist who was taking part in a rally of foreign currency mortgage holders, near the Central Bank headquarters, Moscow, Russia, February 8, 2016. Sergei Karpukhin TPX Images of the Day/Reuters

On Monday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin went on national television to announce that, following a telephone conversation with President Barack Obama, Russia and the US had reached an agreement on a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, to begin at midnight on February 27. Putin went out of his way to present Russia as a team player, in step with the West on Syria, though the accord allows bombing to continue against the Islamic State (ISIS), the al-Qaeda-backed Nusra Front, and “other terrorist groups”—a loose category that for Russia might include anti-Assad forces that the US and Western allies have been backing.…  Seguir leyendo »