A woman handcuffs herself to a fence while holding a copy of the Constitution of the Russian Federation during a rally supporting the Khabarovsk region's governor, Sergei Furgal, in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Aug. 1. (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

Russian politics has always been made in the capitals. Even though the country spans 11 time zones from Eastern Europe to northeast Asia, St. Petersburg and Moscow were the starting points of the three Russian revolutions in the early 20th century — as well as the fourth at the end of it. In August 1991, some remote regions learned about the start of the attempted coup d’état in Moscow only after it had already been defeated.

In the 21st century, this capital-centrism no longer seems to hold true. Whatever the reasons — the nature of modern communications surely being chief among them — Russian politics is becoming truly national.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, during a video link with cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Photo: Getty Images.

Days before the publication of last week’s report into Russian activity in the UK, and the subsequent call from several UK parliamentarians for a swift response to the ‘Russian threat’, Russia tested a new anti-satellite weapon capability releasing a small projectile from its Kosmos-2543 sub-satellite.

Kosmos-2543, a small satellite contained inside a larger satellite, Kosmos-2542, and ‘birthed’ into orbit in late 2019, recently came under scrutiny in January 2020 when it was reportedly caught ‘buzzing’ US spy satellites in Low Earth Orbit.

By releasing a small projectile from the Kosmos-2543 sub-satellite, the US claims that Russia has launched a new projectile into orbit with relatively high speed – estimated at around 500 km per hour – leading to concerns about the potential of Russia to develop this technology as a weapon to target foreign satellites.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is worth keeping this illusion in mind, I think, when considering the activities of Russia and, for that matter, China.

On the surface, these nations seem engaged in conventional subterfuge and foreign influence. The Russian activity investigated by the intelligence select committee, for instance, was partly about electoral manipulation, influencing democratic votes to tilt policy in its favour. Or take China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), an attempt to build large projects in foreign nations, thus deepening the soft power of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).

Look at the picture a little longer, however, and it starts to morph. It is not that the analysis of the select committee is flawed, or its facts wrong.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hemos tardado demasiado en reconocer (por no hablar de resistir) el riesgo que plantea el ataque a las democracias liberales por parte del régimen matoneril post‑KGB del presidente ruso Vladimir Putin y de la versión china de leninismo agresivo (económicamente más exitosa).

Tuve una visión cercana del lado ruso del problema siendo comisario de asuntos exteriores de la Unión Europea entre 1999 y 2004. Demasiados países europeos, liderados por la Italia de Silvio Berlusconi, creyeron que podían hacer negocios con Putin e incluso tal vez convertirlo en un aliado geoestratégico. En tanto, Putin dirigía un régimen ocupado en derribar el orden internacional de la posguerra y fracturar la UE y la alianza transatlántica.…  Seguir leyendo »

Campaigners during a rally held in 2019 in support of a Russian law on domestic violence. Photo: Getty Images

Russia is one of the few countries in the region to have no legal definition of domestic violence and, as a result, there are no protective measures specific to domestic violence such as restraining orders or compulsory anger management training for abusers. In fact, the government has taken steps in recent years to remove any legal distinction between assault happening in one’s home, and elsewhere, with battery among family or household members for first-time offences decriminalized in 2017.

The Russian Ministry of Justice explicitly defended this position in its response to an enquiry into Russian domestic violence cases by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in November 2019.…  Seguir leyendo »

In face-to-face surveys carried out by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) and Levada Marketing Research (Moscow), we asked 2,750 respondents in southeast Ukraine and in Crimea in December 2014 and another 3,037 respondents throughout Ukraine and in Crimea in December 2019/January 2020 the question: “Have you heard about the catastrophe of the Malaysian aircraft in July 2014 in eastern Ukraine? And if so, in your view, what caused it?” Large regional differences in blame attribution are evident across Ukraine’s regions. More respondents gave “don’t know” answers in 2019 than 2014, though respondents in Crimea widely blamed Ukraine for the downed flight. Figure by authors.

Six years ago this week, a Russian-made missile shot Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), a civilian passenger plane with 298 people on board, from the sky over war-torn Ukraine. Last week, the Dutch government, acting on behalf of the 193 Dutch nationals on the flight, announced it was taking Russia to the European Court of Human Rights. A criminal trial against four suspects involved in transporting the missile system that downed MH17 began in Amsterdam in March.

The destruction of MH17 on July 17, 2014, sparked outrage and accusations. Russia — and Russian separatists in Ukraine — continue to deny any responsibility.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexei Druzhinin/TASS via Getty Images President Putin presenting his identification document to validate his vote in Russia’s constitutional amendment referendum that would permit him to remain president until 2036, Moscow, July 1, 2020

On July 1, after “recovering,” by decree, from the coronavirus pandemic, Russia held a vote on a package of constitutional amendments. Introduced by Vladimir Putin back in January and expanded by the State Duma over the following months, the 206 changes are touted as protecting Russia’s sovereignty, defending Russian history, and boosting Russians’ economic well-being. The amendments also nullify the previous presidential terms of Vladimir Putin, allowing him to run again for the presidency when his current, fourth term expires—in effect, extending his twenty-year grip on power indefinitely. “Russia’s strength,” explained the chairman of the Duma when talking about amendments, “is not oil and gas, but Vladimir Putin.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Joseph Stalin was reported to have said, at a Bolshevik party meeting in 1923, that voting is “completely unimportant” — “what is extraordinarily important is … who will count the votes, and how.” Except for a brief democratic interlude in the 1990s, this maxim has governed the Soviet and later the Russian government’s approach to elections ever since.

It was also on full display last week as the Central Election Commission announced the official results of a recent plebiscite that waived Vladimir Putin’s presidential term limits, allowing him to remain in power until 2036. Evidently unconcerned with appearances, the commission began publishing the tallies before voting has ended.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s constitution, at least before this week’s referendum, would have required Vladimir Putin to step down from the Russian presidency in 2024, at the end of his second consecutive six-year term. Observers had long wondered: Would he stay or would he go?

Voters in Russia answered that question by approving a package of constitutional amendments this week — including changes that grant Putin the right to run for two more six-year presidential terms. Reports of irregularities were widespread. A European Union spokesperson noted concerns including voter coercion and double voting, along with intimidation of observers.

Here’s the backstory

In mid-January, Putin submitted proposals for amendments to the constitution and formed a working group to refine the legislation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Wreckage at the site of an attack in April 2019 in which three American service members were killed near Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Since at least February, and possibly as early as March 2019, the United States has had compelling intelligence that a committed adversary, Russia, paid bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan. American service members were reportedly killed as a result.

To this day, the president of the United States has done nothing about it.

Instead, President Trump dismissed the intelligence as not “credible” and “possibly another fabricated Russia hoax, maybe by the Fake News” that is “wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Mr. Trump also claimed that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence was ever told about this critical intelligence before it was first reported in The New York Times.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman votes Thursday at a polling station in Vladivostok, Russia, during a seven-day vote for constitutional reforms. (Yuri Maltsev/Reuters)

Russians began voting Thursday in a week-long plebiscite intended to ratify a series of constitutional amendments, the most important of which would waive presidential term limits and allow Vladimir Putin ⁠— in power for 20 years and already the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Joseph Stalin⁠ — to extend his rule until 2036. After considering more sophisticated options, such as becoming chairman of the newly constituted State Council or creating a new country through a merger with Belarus, Putin took a simpler road traveled by dictators all over the map, from Egypt to Venezuela.

Last weekend, appearing in a documentary about himself on state television, Putin confirmed that he “does not rule out” running for president in 2024, should the constitutional amendments be approved by popular vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina holds a press conference via video link in Moscow. Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The Kremlin’s economic response to COVID-19 has been modest compared to many of its rivals. Although the government is under increased pressure to spend its ‘rainy-day fund’, it believes that doing so will ultimately undermine the fiscal stability underpinning its geopolitical sovereignty.

Since its 1998 default to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Russia has been reluctant to take on sovereign debt. The 2008-09 global financial crisis, followed by the shock of the 2014-15 oil price crash and sanctions, prompted the Kremlin to boost its efforts for economic sovereignty through rouble devaluation and import substitution.

Since 2016, reserves have been rebuilt and the country now enjoys $550 billion in gold/forex and 10% of GDP in the National Welfare Fund, designed to cover budget deficits during periods of low oil prices.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last month, Russia’s Justice Ministry registered four new political parties, giving them the right to take part in scheduled regional elections in September and potentially in next year’s national parliamentary vote as well. All the new groups fulfilled the cumbersome requirements for registration in record time — even though most of the country remains under strict quarantine measures. Registration officials voiced no concerns.

Neither the ease nor the speed should give cause for surprise: As reported in Russian media, the new parties — like most of the nearly 50 political parties now on the register — were created with the political blessing of the government.…  Seguir leyendo »

2020 el año en el que Vladimir Putin vive peligrosamente


¿Cuáles son las consecuencias económicas y políticas de la crisis del COVID-19 en Rusia y en lo que se refiere al poder de Vladimir Putin?


El Kremlin había hecho varios planes para el año 2020 a fin de reafirmar el putinismo como sistema político de Rusia y garantizar a Vladimir Putin mantenerse en el poder hasta 2036. Sin embargo, la combinación de la caída de los precios del petróleo y del gas, que actualmente representan el 39% del PIB de Rusia, y la crisis del COVID-19 plantean la cuestión de si el poder del presidente ruso puede erosionarse gravemente.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the novel coronavirus pandemic began, President Vladimir Putin tried to use the crisis to burnish his reputation as a stronger leader and Russia as an effective state. At first, the Russian leader boasted that his country had escaped the worst, implicitly citing this success as yet more evidence of his own forceful leadership. State-controlled media outlets trumpeted Russia’s success while gloating over American failures. With great fanfare, including media coverage of Russian planes landing in the United States, the Kremlin declared that it had more than enough excess capacity to provide humanitarian assistance to the struggling American state. (We learned later that Putin did not give, but rather sold, this “humanitarian assistance” to American recipients.…  Seguir leyendo »

For almost two weeks, three countries have led the rest of the world in the daily number of new Covid-19 infections: The United States, Russia and Brazil.

This makes some sense — each is in the top 10 of most populous countries with well over 125 million people and each has a few very crowded cities. Furthermore, each country was disorganized and disbelieving as the disease settled in their region.

But one important difference separates Russia from the other two nations. As of Monday, in the United States, which has been in the midst of the pandemic for almost two months, the mortality rate from Covid-19 was 6%, according to Johns Hopkins; in Brazil, hard-hit for a month, the mortality was nearly 7%.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters clash with police in Moscow in July 2019. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

Last month, UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights group, released a report on the upcoming election to the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to the group, governments seeking a place on the top human rights watchdog at the General Assembly session in October will include some of the world’s worst human rights abusers — among them Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Russia’s candidacy did not come as a surprise. The government in Moscow has long been eager to return to the forum, from which it was dropped nearly four years ago. In February, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used a speech in front of the council to excoriate Western democracies for “meddling in the domestic affairs of sovereign states” and imposing “highly dubious ‘values’ .…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman walks past red banners devoted to Victory Day in downtown Moscow on Wednesday. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)

Moscow intellectuals like to joke that our dark past is in fact our bright future. Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly seems to think so — and he’s not joking.

Every year on May 9, Russia celebrates the Soviet victory in World War II with a public holiday and an ostentatious military parade. This year, the covid-19 outbreak forced the Kremlin to postpone the parade. The festivities have ended up being limited to a military flyover and traditional fireworks display.

It turns out that the present isn’t quite as easy to control as the past. For years, Putin has been relying on the glories of history to try to galvanize the masses and distract them from current social problems — above all, the declining economy, sagging living standards and the paralysis of the political system.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘When the Russian state today appeals to our heroic past, this progressive history is certainly not what it has in mind.’ A Victory Day banner on display in Moscow Photograph: Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

In the early 1990s Russia used to have a strong sense of belonging in Europe. This began to change: the post-Soviet shock therapy reforms were a punishing transition to a free-market society, when a kilogram of sausage cost about the same as a monthly pension and many families experienced malnutrition and hunger. The sudden shift to a more “westernised” way of running the economy left many impoverished, which was eventually capitalised on – after the oligarchic power wars – by a new political leader who embraced a conservative, nationalist rhetoric: Vladimir Putin.

Today, Russian television presenters feed us stories about a European continent in decay, where “aggressive migrants” run amok, where social services take children away from their parents for being “slapped”, where “sexual minorities” destroy traditional families.…  Seguir leyendo »


Conviene estudiar las campañas de desinformación de Rusia y ser consciente que China está aprendiendo rápidamente de ellas.


En enero, al comienzo de la crisis del COVID-19, los medios de comunicación rusos financiados por el Kremlin difundían las narrativas fabricadas por los medios oficiales chinos sobre el origen del virus. Sin embargo, a partir de marzo, cuando los países europeos empezaron a introducir medidas de emergencia, Rusia comenzó a aplicar las mismas tácticas de desinformación utilizadas en sus campañas anteriores, con el objetivo de cuestionar la credibilidad de las instituciones democráticas de la UE y de EEUU y su capacidad para gestionar la crisis sanitaria.…  Seguir leyendo »