This week, Russian lawmakers decided to postpone legislation aimed at ushering in sweeping constitutional changes announced in January by President Vladimir Putin.
The delay is the result of an influx of proposals from organizations and individual citizens. The suggestions, many of them bizarre — ranging from replacing the president with a “supreme ruler” to formally codifying the need to “counter the falsification of history” — will be considered by a specially created working group that will make its recommendations to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament. “We must be patient,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov counseled journalists who inquired about the timeline.… Seguir leyendo »
Dictatorships and term limits rarely go together. It has been clear since at least 2003 — when Vladimir Putin shut down the last independent television network, expelled the pro-democracy opposition from parliament, and jailed one of his main rivals — that he intends to stay in power for as long as he stays alive.
In 2008, at the end of his second term, Putin easily got around Article 81 of the Russian constitution, which limits the president to two consecutive terms, by installing Dmitry Medvedev as puppet president — while continuing to wield power from the position of prime minister.
In 2024, when Putin turns 72, such an arrangement will no longer be an option.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, the Council of Europe, Europe’s oldest intergovernmental body and its main watchdog on human rights, handed the Kremlin a huge victory — and a stinging rebuke. At its session in Strasbourg, the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly voted 118 to 62 to reinstate the full rights of the Russian delegation that were suspended after President Vladimir Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Delegates from Russia looked triumphant as they took their seats in the chamber of the Palace of Europe.
The delegation appeared intentionally designed to offend every European sentiment. Even the most despotic regime, if it tries, can find half-respectable people to represent it on the world stage; here, it seems, every effort was made to achieve the opposite.… Seguir leyendo »
In separate interviews over the past few days, two Russian officials — Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin — have indicated that Vladimir Putin’s government may be preparing to pull Russia out of the Council of Europe. If enacted, “Ruxit” — as the council’s secretary general, Thorbjørn Jagland, termed it — will mean much more than denying Russian citizens the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights and access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. It will also be a continuation of Putin’s attempts to reorient Russia away from the very concept of Europe that is the antithesis to the current regime in the Kremlin.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, Alexei Navalny, Russia’s leading anti-corruption campaigner, completed another month-long administrative jail term for one of the many anti-Kremlin rallies organized by his supporters. In the eyes of the Russian authorities, these protests are not free assembly protected under Article 31 of Russia’s Constitution (and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but “unsanctioned demonstrations” punishable by fines or jail under the Code of Administrative Offenses. Repeated “violations” under this clause can give the authorities ground to press criminal charges under Article 212.1 of the Penal Code — and would carry the punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment.… Seguir leyendo »
Six months after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered 100 yards from the Kremlin, his killers — let alone those who directed them — have yet to face justice. The investigation appears to be stalling. One by one, the suspects have retracted their confessions. Investigators have been unable to question high-profile persons of interest from Chechnya, who appear to enjoy special protection.
Yet many of those who share responsibility for this crime are well known. The gunshots that ended Nemtsov’s life were not fired in a vacuum. They were enabled — indeed, encouraged — by an environment of hatred, violence and intimidation of those who oppose Vladimir Putin’s repressive policies and corruption, and his war on Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
Vladimir Bukovsky , the legendary Russian dissident who spent 12 years in prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for his “anti-Soviet activity,” famously faulted Western media in the 1980s for their confusing terminology, which resulted in curious statements about the “Russian” invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the protests against it by “Soviet” academician Andrei Sakharov . This linguistic mix-up between the oppressor and the oppressed is resurfacing with Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine: Many analysts and journalists cite “Russian” threats, the “Russian” invasion and the need for sanctions on “Russia.”
The truth is that most Russians oppose intervention in Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
On July 12, as I stopped at the gate of the Russian Embassy compound in northwest Washington, the on-duty officer had some unexpected news. “I cannot let you in,” he said through an intercom. “You are forbidden to enter the embassy.” Being a Russian citizen and a credentialed Russian journalist, and having been to my country’s embassy on numerous occasions, I was naturally curious. Yevgeny Khorishko, the embassy’s press secretary, whom I called for an explanation, was brief: The directive to “strike” my name from the list of credentialed Russian journalists came from Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. No reason was given. In an interview later with Slon.ru,… Seguir leyendo »