Nikolai Petrov

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A view of the site where a private jet, allegedly carrying Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin and other passengers crashed in Russia's northwestern Tver region. (Photo by Wagner Telegram Account/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Retribution against Yevgeniy Prigozhin, leader of Wagner’s failed coup attempt in June, was inevitable.

Prigozhin knew President Vladimir Putin’s methods well enough to take precautions. It is known that multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeniy Prigozhin as part of the mercenary leader’s efforts to obfuscate his travels.

Therefore it may never be established for certain that he died in the private jet. Even President Putin, in his first comment on the incident, delivered a stilted obituary but stopped short of saying Prigozhin was definitely among the dead. And the crash is so politically significant that there is no chance of a transparent or credible investigation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Voting in controversial referendums in Donetsk, Ukraine on September 25, 2022, asking if the citizens want the region to become part of Russia. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

James Nixey

Like the course of the war itself, Russia’s ability to garner and maintain international support has fluctuated considerably over the past 7-8 months.

Initially, as with all of Russia’s shocking acts in the last two decades, such as other invasions, assassinations, domestic human rights abuses, there was global revulsion and this was reflected in the first United Nations (UN) resolution vote in which 141 countries came out against Russia with 35 abstentions and only five against.

But within weeks another UN vote on the slightly different issue of Russia’s continued membership of the UN Human Rights Council, the ratio was down to 93-58-24.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester is detained by police officers during an unsanctioned protest rally over the invasion of Ukraine at Pushkinskaya Square in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin/Getty Images.

While the position of Vladimir Putin – and the political elites controlled by him – regarding the assault on Ukraine is clear and has been repeatedly articulated, there are differing assessments about the views held in Russia’s wider society.

Some believe most Russians support the Kremlin’s military action against Ukraine and therefore are fully responsible for the evil being committed in their name. But it is also the first time in Putin’s Russia that there have been so many individual and collective protests against Kremlin actions.

Russian society is no liberal utopia, but it is a divided, largely atomized, and disoriented society which has existed for many years under increasing pressure from an authoritarian regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

Screens display voting results at the Information Center in the Russian Central Election Commission following the country's 2021 legislative election. Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images.

What is being claimed by Russia’s political leadership as an honest and overwhelming victory masks clear manipulation, as well as challenges presented by opposition forces in the country. And yet the flagrant rigging of results is more likely to lead to further opposition despondency than mass protests.

Although elections took place at local, regional, and national levels in Russia, it was elections to the State Duma – the lower chamber of the national parliament – which were the main event as the first national-level elections since a marked decline in Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings following deeply unpopular pension reforms in 2018.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses lawmakers debating on the second reading of the constitutional reform bill during a session of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament March 10, 2020. Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images.

With Putin’s current term as head of state due to run out in 2024, the question everybody has been asking is what he will do to remain in power. The Russian president’s recent speech, made in person in the State Duma during the second reading of his own constitutional reform bill, has been interpreted by many as a clear answer. Summaries such as “Putin forever” and “perpetual Putin” abound. But the reality is not so clear.

Putin has not committed to standing for re-election in 2024, never mind staying in power until 2036, when two additional six-year terms from 2024 would run out.…  Seguir leyendo »

A live broadcast of Vladimir Putin's annual address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, seen on the Leader Tower screen in St Petersburg. Photo: Getty Images.

Vladimir Putin’s proposed constitutional reforms will transform Russia’s political regime and allow him to prolong his grip on power when his fourth presidential term expires in 2024.

While Putin mentioned a popular vote on the constitutional changes (which is not required by law), it is important to note that he didn’t use the term ‘referendum’, which would have mandated that the results be acted upon. Regardless, it is clear that he will be seeking electoral legitimacy for these reforms in forthcoming elections. The current federal electoral cycle starts next year and will end in 2024 with the presidential election.

The key question now is how Putin will maintain control over the siloviki, Russia’s political elite, though he has made this task easier for himself by replacing some of the strongest players with mid-level officers and weakening the authority of those who remain.…  Seguir leyendo »

Climate change debates have not taken root in Russia. Yet, while speaking at an energy forum in Moscow, Vladimir Putin chose to comment on Greta Thunberg, the prominent 16-year-old Swedish eco-activist. Adopting his usual sarcastically condescending persona, Putin expressed regret that the ‘kind’ and ‘very sincere’ girl was being used by adults for their own political interests in such a ‘cruel, emotional way’.

These remarks may appear to have been intended to dismiss Thunberg’s environmental concerns. However, among the Russian public, concern about climate change is not widespread.

Fridays for Future, the movement started by Thunberg, received little uptake in Russia, inspiring less than 100 people to take to the streets in September.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters at a rally in central Moscow on 10 August. Photo: Getty Images.

The disqualification of opposition candidates ahead of an election to Moscow’s city duma on 8 September have spurred the largest protests seen in the city since 2011–12. Increasing waves of mass protests reached around 50,000 participants on 10 August, and there is no sign of them stopping. Nikolai Petrov explains the implications of these protests and the Kremlin’s response.

Why have these protests emerged now?

Since the announcement of pensions reform last year [when the government raised the retirement age without public discussion or explanation, to widespread outcry], there has been huge disappointment with the government in general and Putin in particular, which has led to a decline in Putin’s approval ratings.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mark of the FSB in Moscow. Photo: Getty Images.

How have the methods of political control of the Russian elite changed over the past few years?

Starting from 2014, what I would call political repression has become more common, and it has become a very important tool. There has been a stable, high level of arrests within certain groups of elites – or even in some cases, a spiral of repression where the number and intensity of the punishments continually increases.

If you look at the targets, you can see that these people are not the most corrupt, nor did they violate any informal ‘rules of the game’. They were chosen just to send signals to certain groups within the elite, whether that be corporate leadership or governors and regional political elites – or even officers in the security services.…  Seguir leyendo »