NEWSWATCH: “Countering a Kleptocratic Kremlin; We must remember that predatory authoritarianism is not stamped into the Russian DNA” – The American Interest/Larry Diamond

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

“With every passing week we have new evidence of the threat that Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy poses to our democracy, our national security, and the entire liberal world order. Putin’s regime – something akin to an organized crime ring masquerading as a state – has looted the wealth of Russia, subjugated its people, attacked neighboring former republics of the USSR, annexed […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How to Stop Vladimir Putin’s Mafia; The real enemy is a group of about 100 beneficiaries of the regime and several thousand accomplices” – Wall Street Journal/Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky file photo

“… The West’s real enemy – and the enemy of the Russian people too – is a group of about 100 key beneficiaries of the Putin regime, and several thousand of their accomplices, many of whom hold posts in the Federal Security Service and the presidential administration.  Most of these people began their careers in the criminal underworld of St. […]

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Russia haunts the western imagination; The dividing line between authoritarian Russia and liberal democracies is growing ever thinner.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(opendemocracy.net – Ivan Krastev – April 16, 2018) Ivan Krastev is Visiting Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Programmes at The Graduate Institute and Geneva Permanent Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna. He is also Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia. He is author of After Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). If a Martian were sent to earth with […]

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NEWSLINK: “Autumn of the Oligarchs; Vladimir Putin’s Billionaire Buddies Are Getting Scared, and Not Just of Sanctions” – The Daily Beast/Amy Knight

Kremlin and River

“Some of the oligarchs now face major U.S. sanctions, while others are getting arrested on the Kremlin’s orders. Is Putin’s circle of the shameless rich beginning to crumble?”  

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NEWSWATCH: “Zapret a manger: Russia’s elites face growing sanctions pressure” – Bear Market Brief/Max Hess

Portion of U.S. Treasury Department Building Facade, North Side, with Sculpture of Alexander Hamilton

“[With the Treasury Department’s April 6, 2018, sanctions announcement,] [s]even Russians explicitly labeled oligarchs … their main Russian businesses, and 17 government officials were added to the list of Specifically Designated Nationals (SDN) … [who] have their U.S. assets frozen, while U.S. persons are barred from doing business with them. … a tactical escalation of the U.S. sanctions …. expanded […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Billionaire Arrest Jolts Stocks, Fuels Cabinet Shake-Up Speculation” – Bloomberg/Ksenia Galouchko, Ilya Arkhipov, Stepan Kravchenko

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

“The arrest of one of Russia’s best-connected billionaires on charges of fraud and embezzlement knocked shares in his companies lower and fueled speculation it could be the harbinger of a shake-up in the cabinet …. [Dagestani-born] Ziyavudin Magomedov was arrested … with his brother … as he prepared to fly to the U.S. … he denied the charges but was […]

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Russian sports minister suggests putting WADA in charge of national anti-doping organizations

Olympic Rings Lit at Night, adapted from image at state.gov

MOSCOW. April 2 (Interfax) – Russian anti-doping organizations could become branches of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which in that case would be responsible for their work, Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said. “WADA is monitoring the work of all national anti-doping organizations and laboratories, and responsibility is borne by the states where these structures are located. The consequences of […]

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“Gangster’s paradise: how organised crime took over Russia; Under Vladimir Putin, gangsterism on the streets has given way to kleptocracy in the state” – The Guardian (UK)/Mark Galeotti

“… The challenge posed by Russian organised crime is a formidable one – and not just at home. Across the world, it trafficks drugs and people, arms insurgents and gangsters, and peddles every type of criminal service, from money laundering to computer hacking. For all that, much of the rest of the world remains willing – indeed, often delighted – […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Putin’s Hawks Got the Confirmation They Wanted; The Russian president defeated his strongest opponent — voter apathy” – Bloomberg/Leonid Bershidsky

Kremlin and River

“… The election was fake because Putin’s most vocal and most politically talented rival, Alexei Navalny, wasn’t allowed to run because of a trumped-up criminal conviction. It was fake because the “opposing candidates” were hand-picked by the Kremlin and because the majority of Russian media are under direct or indirect Kremlin control. It was also fake because of a fierce […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Real Drama in Russia’s Election: How Many Voters Will Show Up? Putin is poised to win another term as president, and efforts to boost turnout recall Soviet-era elections” – Wall Street Journal/Thomas Grove

Russia Regions Map

“… the challenge for the Kremlin [is] not how to assure [Putin’s] victory … but how to boost voter turnout and legitimize an uncompetitive election. … in the northern Yamal-Nenets region … residents of voting age will be able to take their pictures against an election banner at a voting booth and post it on VKontakte, one of Russia’s most […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian lawmaker accused of sex harassment apologizes” – AP

Russian State Duma Building file photo

“An influential Russian parliament member accused of sexual harassment by several female journalists has issued an apology and asked for forgiveness. … allegations against [foreign affairs committee head] Leonid Slutsky by three journalists include groping and making demeaning comments. … demonstrators including … Sobchak held pickets outside the parliament demanding [his] resignation ….” Click here for: “Russian lawmaker accused of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Poroshenko is afraid” – Kyiv Post Editorial

File photo of Barack Obama and Petro Poroshenko facing one another, with Obama gesturing

“… Poroshenko keeps inventing ruses to prevent the creation of an independent anti-corruption court with respected judges who would, at long last, start delivering justice to this long-suffering nation. His latest line of attack  … is that Western donors cannot dictate the composition of the court because that would be an unconstitutional infringement on Ukrainian sovereignty. Easy problem to solve: […]

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Russians Increasingly Blasé about Major Corruption Cases But Infuriated by Local Ones

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, March 4, 2018) The anti-corruption cases Moscow has launched in recent months no longer shock most Russians who view them as a kind of theater or surrogate for a genuine struggle against corruption because it is hard for them to view money in the capital as if it were their own, Aleksey […]

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Russia Lacks Basic Preconditions for Democracy, Inozemtsev Says

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 27, 2018) This week, as Russia enters yet another pseudo-electoral campaign, two Moscow newspapers, Yezhednevny zhurnal and Novyye izvestiya have taken the highly unusual step of publishing an October 2015 address by Vladislav Inozemtsev on why Russia has never been, is not and won’t likely ever become a democracy. The speech, […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Russian government blocks Navalny’s website, as Instagram caves to the censor’s demands and YouTube wavers” – Meduza

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at nps.gov

“When the dust finally settled, the morning after Valentine’s Day, it was Instagram – not YouTube – that had complied with orders from Russia’s federal censor to delete content flagged as a privacy violation by a court in Ust-Labinsky. On February 9, Instagram was given three weekdays to delete 14 posts uploaded by a self-described escort who calls herself ‘Nastya […]

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NEWSLINK: “Expansion, Sanctions, and Opposition-Promotion: the West’s Failed Russian Transformation Strategy” – Russian and Eurasian Politics/ Gordon M. Hahn

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

“… The West’s post-Ukraine crisis sanction meanwhile are intended to undermine the regime from above. The hope in Washington and Brussels is that by pressuring state and private oligarchs close to Putin or the Kremlin, some may withdraw their support and seek either to remove Putin in a coup or join the opposition and remove him in a revolution or […]

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Roskomnadzor threatens to block sites that don’t delete info from Navalny film by Wed night

File Image of Laptop Computer, Tables and Mobile Device, adapted from image at energy.gov

MOSCOW. Feb 14 (Interfax) – Roskomnadzor has given websites that have yet to delete the information contained in the film made by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation until Wednesday evening to do so, saying they will be blocked if they do not comply. “The monitoring of the sites that have failed to delete the prohibited information and remain in the Unified […]

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Russian Olympians’ Last Ditch Appeals to Compete in the Winter Games, Explained

Olympic Rings Lit at Night, adapted from image at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – February 8, 2018) Although Russia has long been a powerhouse in the Winter Olympics, its flag, anthem and tricolor will be absent from the games kicking off tomorrow in South Korea. After a blanket ban of the Russian Olympic team in December by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over doping allegations, individual athletes have still […]

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Interfax: Moscow City Court overturns sentence of Navalny foundation’s lawyer due to insufficient evidence

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Marching on Street with Others in Background; adapted from image at commons.wikimedia.org by Evgeny Feldman, subject to Creative Commons license; original image at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FEV_1795_(cropped1).jpg, with license information at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

MOSCOW. Feb 5 (Interfax) – The Moscow City Court has acquitted Alexander Pomazuyev, a lawyer of Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation charged with resisting police during an unauthorized rally, and canceled his administrative arrest on Monday. “The court has overturned the ruling of Moscow’s Simonovsky District Court and halted the proceedings in the administrative case due to the failure to prove […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putin: From Oligarch to Kleptocrat” – New York Review of Books/Ruth May

Vladimir Putin

“… Putin’s real intention—and not from the day he entered the Kremlin, but from the day he left Dresden—was to reassert the authority of the autocratic state. …”

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Interfax: Putin warns against further politicization of global sports

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

NOVO-OGARYOVO. Jan 31 (Interfax) – Russia hopes that international sports organizations will not turn into government departments in certain countries however powerful these might seem sometimes, President Vladimir Putin said. “Of course, we very much feel for our athletes who could not go to the Olympic Games. We will do everything to support them,” Putin said at a meeting with […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia and Ukraine: More similar than either wants to admit” – bne Intellinews/Anders Åslund

“… Russians see themselves as economically superior while Ukrainians cherish their freedom. Yet … economically the similarities are greater than the differences. Their current fundamental problem is their absence of real property rights. … Russia experienced an attempt at serious market economic reform from 1991-94 … avoid[ing] Ukraine’s … hyperinflation in 1993. While Russia’s situation was bad, Ukraine’s was far […]

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Few Russians Think ‘Era of Oligarchs’ is Over

Arkady Dvorkovich file photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 28, 2018) At Davos, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said that there aren’t any oligarchs left in Russia, a declaration that has attracted a great deal of attention both in Russia and abroad but very little support among Russians who continue to see oligarchs as an evil force in their […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Future of Navalny’s Opposition Movement; Why It Will Continue to Challenge the Kremlin” – Foreign Affairs/Anton Barbashin

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Marching on Street with Others in Background; adapted from image at commons.wikimedia.org by Evgeny Feldman, subject to Creative Commons license; original image at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FEV_1795_(cropped1).jpg, with license information at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

“In March 2017 … Navalny released a shocking video investigation … reveal[ing] that Medvedev has been able to amass a tremendous fortune while in power … several mansions in Russia, a villa and property in Italy, and other assets worth roughly $1.2 billion. … spark[ing] a great deal of interest among Russians … receiv[ing] almost 26 million views on YouTube […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putin’s Russia Keeps Getting More Dangerous; The Ulyukaev verdict shows that personal loyalty to Putin cannot protect an official in the event of a conflict with those who are part of Putin’s inner circle” – The National Interest/ Sergey Aleksashenko

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo » Read more

Russia’s Channel One Will Broadcast Olympics, Despite Team’s Ban

Olympic Rings Lit at Night, adapted from image at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 12, 2017) Russia’s state-run Channel One television channel has announced that it will broadcast the 2018 Winter Game’s despite the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision last week to bar Russia’s team from competing. The IOC decision said that individual Russian athletes could participate in the Olympics in February if they proved to a panel […]

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What do Regular Russians Think of the IOC’s Olympic Doping Ban?

Olympic Rings Lit at Night, adapted from image at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 6, 2017) “This is undoubtedly a political decision,” says Igor, 40. In Moscow, news that Russia’s entire Olympic team had been barred from next year’s Winter Games was still sinking in on Wednesday afternoon. In the latest chapter of the Russian doping scandal, the International Olympic Committee’s President Thomas Bach on Tuesday evening announced […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What Does Putin Want? To Maintain His Power No Matter What; A big win for Putin in the March election would be a victory for the Russian autocratic state.” – NBC/ William Pomeranz

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium Gesturing

“In Russia … [elections] are acts of confirmation: The only real suspense … is whether … Putin will receive 70 percent or 80 percent …. Putin … surely understands that reform is the moment of greatest vulnerability for a Russian leader (just ask … Gorbachev). … Putin’s intent is always to maintain control, as recent prosecutions attest. * * * … At the top of […]

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Russian Elections Chief Says Navalny Cannot Run Until 2028

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Marching on Street with Others in Background; adapted from image at commons.wikimedia.org by Evgeny Feldman, subject to Creative Commons license; original image at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FEV_1795_(cropped1).jpg, with license information at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – October 17, 2017 – article also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-navalny-elections-pamfilova-presidency/28799529.html) Russia’s top election official says that opposition politician Aleksei Navalny will not be eligible to run for office until about 2028. Speaking at a youth festival in the southern city of Sochi, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova warned Navalny and […]

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RUSSIALINK: “The Billionaire Adviser: A Story of Russia’s Anti-Corruption Campaign; The story of the arrest of Oleg Korshunov, deputy director of Russia’s prison system, looks at first glance like a victory in an anti-corruption campaign. But the truth is much more complex”  – Carnegie Moscow/ Olga Romanova 

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

“… Korshunov merely operated too blatantly, his detention is unlikely to change much, and he may eventually get free on parole …”  

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A Corruption Trial Splits the Kremlin; The former economy minister got caught in a sting, and no one knows where Putin stands.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Evgenia Pismennaya, Ilya Arkhipov, Henry Meyer, Irina Reznik – October 11, 2017) The first prosecution of a minister for graft under Russian President Vladimir Putin contains the kind of details you’d expect in a spy novel, from hidden microphones and coded hand signals to homemade sausages and a bag stuffed with cash. The case against former […]

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Navalny Fund Publishes Retractions in Usmanov Libel Suit

Alisher Usmanov file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 11, 2017) The Anti-Corruption Foundation has complied with a court order to publish retractions related to a video critical of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Foundation founder and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was sued for libel in April by Uzbekistan-born Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov over allegations of bribery. Navalny is currently serving a 20-day jail […]

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Interfax: Foreign activity on Kirovles case is attempt to influence 2018 elections in Russia – Federation Council

File Photo of Council of Europe Headquarters Building with Flags in Front

MOSCOW. Sept 25 (Interfax) – The high interest of structures of the Council of Europe in the Kirovles case is an attempt to influence the preparations for the presidential elections in Russia, the Russian Federation Council commission on the protection of state sovereignty said. “Foreign activity around the debate in the structures of the Council of Europe on the so-called […]

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How Western Election Monitors Help Putin

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(The Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Fedor Krasheninnikov – September 7, 2017) Fedor Krasheninnikov is a well-known Russian journalist and political analyst. He has been a contributing opinion writer with the business newspaper Vedomosti and the independent online publication Snob.ru. Krasheninnikov also serves as political commentator for the radio station Echo of Moscow. He has organised environmental and political campaigns […]

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Serebrennikov says has no way of hiding abroad

Kirill Serebrennikov file photo, adapted from image at osce.usmission.gov

MOSCOW. Sept 4 (Interfax) – Theater producer Kirill Serebrennikov, who is charged with stealing 68 million rubles provided from the budget for the Platforma project, has said he has no way of hiding from investigators. “I have no way of running away or hiding, let alone [doing] anything else at this moment,” Serebrennikov said in the Moscow City Court on […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Marking time” – Kyiv Post Editorial [re: Ukraine]

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

“… Ukraine celebrates the 26th year of its independence …. in the Donbas, Russia’s war on Ukraine is a deadly stalemate …. in Minsk, peace talks to end the Kremlin’s military intervention and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity are going round in circles …. In Kyiv, it’s politics as usual … with a powerful president lording over … an oligarchical system. The reform […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Show Trial of a Russian Theater Director; If it is not clear by now, let me say it in no uncertain terms: The #Serebrennikov case is a show trial” – Moscow Times/ John Freedman

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

“The arrest of director Kirill Serebrennikov … created a firestorm of reaction …. Serebrennikov’s arrest is the latest development in an affair that went public in late May. At that time, he was questioned about funds allegedly embezzled from theater projects mounted by an entity called Seventh Studio, an offshoot of the Gogol Center, where Serebrennikov has been artistic director …. […]

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Russian ex-deputy minister Aleksashenko detained in airport, released, then case on cultural valuables smuggling opened against him – source

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

MOSCOW. Aug 23 (Interfax) – A criminal case on charges of smuggling of cultural valuables was opened against Sergei Aleksashenko, a former Russian deputy finance minister turned public figure, a source in law enforcement structures told Interfax. “Aleksashenko was detained in a Moscow airport, where several orders of the Soviet era, prohibited to be exported, were seized from him,” the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Corruption Case Puts Sechin in the Spotlight” – Carnegie Moscow Center/ Konstantin Gaaze

Igor Sechin file photo

“The high-profile trial of former Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev is not playing out according to the script that most analysts had expected. The prosecution’s case increasingly relies on the testimony of one man, state oil chief Igor Sechin, making this master of Kremlin intrigue potentially politically vulnerable. The powerful reputation of the official said to be Russia’s second most […]

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Interfax: Stage director Serebrennikov says charges brought against him absurd, asks court not to take him into custody

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

MOSCOW. Aug 23 (Interfax) – Stage director Kirill Serebrennikov, the art director of the Gogol Center theater, who has been charged with organizing the embezzlement of at least 68 million rubles allocated from the budget to Studio Seven, which he founded, for implementation of the Platforma theatrical project, has dismissed the charges as absurd. “The charges brought against me are […]

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Putin’s Renationalization Campaign: Fighting Corruption or Forcing Officials’ Loyalty? (excerpt)

Alexei Navalny file photo

(PONARS Eurasia – ponarseurasia.org – Hilary Appel, Wendy Chuyi Sheng – August 18, 2017) Hilary Appel is Podlich Family Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College. Wendy Chuyi Sheng graduated from Claremont McKenna College in 2017 with degrees in Economics and Government. [Full text here http://www.ponarseurasia.org/memo/putins-renationalization-campaign-fighting-corruption-or-forcing-officials-loyalty] (PONARS Policy Memo) Large street protests returned to Russia […]

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How can Russia’s left work with Navalny? Across Russia, Alexey Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign is gaining an audience. Can Russia’s left benefit from the political opening he has provided?

File Photo of Alexei Navalny Being Grabbed by Police at Protest

(opendemocracy.net – KIRILL MEDVEDEV, OLEG ZHURAVLEV – August 21, 2017) Kirill Medvedev is a Moscow-based poet, translator, activist and a member of the Russian Socialist Movement. Oleg Zhuravlev is a researcher at the Public Sociology Laboratory (Russia), which he and his colleagues founded in 2012. He is also a PhD-candidate at the European University Institute (Italy) and teaches at the […]

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Piketty Zeroes In on Putin’s Pain Point; The West should stop relying on sanctions and instead target Russia’s massive offshore wealth.

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – August 14, 2017) After alerting the Western world to the alarming rise of inequality, Thomas Piketty has turned his attention to Russia. To someone who has lived through Russia’s transition from Communism to crony capitalism, his take on that transition reveals deep flaws in his overall methodology — but some of his conclusions […]

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The Stunning Story of Russian Minister Ulyukayev’s Arrest for Bribery, Explained

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 8, 2017) Alexei Ulyukayev, the first serving Russian minister to be arrested since the fall of the Soviet Union, will appear in court on Tuesday, after being accused of soliciting a bribe from the country’s largest oil company. The former Economic Development Minister has been under house arrest since his detention in the dead […]

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Kremlin Plan to Make Fight for Justice Centerpiece of Putin Campaign Seen Backfiring

Russia Regions Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 26, 2017) Two anonymous sources “close to the Presidential Administration” tell the Znak news agency that Vladimir Putin plans to fight “the struggle against poverty and social injustice” a centerpiece of his re-election campaign in order to mobilize Russians against local and regional elites. But Znak commentator Yekaterina Vinokurova warns that […]

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Interfax: Defense finish reviewing evidence in Browder, Cherkasov dossier

File Photo of William Browder Seated at Table with Microphone as Woman Listens, with Image Watermark Saying Presented by Library of Congress with U.S. House of Representatives Seal, adapted from image at house.gov

MOSCOW. July 22 (Interfax) – The materials concerning Hermitage Capital Management co-founder William Browder and his business partner Ivan Cherkasov were sent for approval to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, the defense lawyer Alexander Antipov said on Thursday. “The defense finished reviewing the case files, currently, the dossier has been sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office but I don’t think […]

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Anti-Corruption Protests Didn’t Make Navalny More Popular – Poll

Kremlin and River

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 17, 2017) Highly publicized anti-corruption protests organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny in June did not increase his popularity, the news outlet RBC reported Monday. Citing an unpublished report by independent pollster Lavada Center, RBC said the percentage of respondents who recognize Navalny and the Anti-Corruption Fund that he leads remained unchanged from March […]

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