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 »
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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 »
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 »
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 »