NEWSWATCH: “With court ruling, Kremlin moves to block political biggest threat: Navalny. The ruling reinstating a guilty verdict for anticorruption blogger Alexei Navalny effectively rules him out of next year’s presidential race. But it may help him remain a viable Kremlin opponent.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Kremlin and River

“The legal odyssey of Russia’s best-known opposition leader, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, has been mindbogglingly complicated, full of twists and turns. … with a simple and totally predictable political result. … a regional court’s ruling … upheld … Navalny’s embezzlement conviction and handed him a five-year suspended sentence … [making it] almost impossible for him to run against … Putin […]

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How Does Conflict of Interest Translate Into Russian? It Doesn’t.

Yury Chaika file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Irina Skrynnik – February 9, 2017) Russia’s Prosecutor General Yury Chaika gave his first detailed comments on the business owned by his eldest son, Artyom, and his younger son, Igor, in an interview last week. “Don’t you think it’s a delicate situation when a father – meaning you – serves on a high government post […]

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Sentence in ‘Kirovles case’ deprives Navalny of possibility of running in presidential elections under law on presidential elections in Russia – lawyer

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

MOSCOW. Feb 8 (Interfax) – Under the legislation on presidential elections, opposition politician Alexei Navalny cannot participate in the upcoming election campaign due to his conviction in the Kirovles case,” according to which he has been found guilty of embezzlement, his lawyer Olga Mikhailova told Interfax. “According to the law on [presidential] elections, a person convicted for a grave crime […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Hopes for Swift End to Track and Field Doping Exile” – AP

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

“… Russian track and field exists in limbo, banned since November 2015 as a series of investigations revealed widespread doping and alleged government officials helped to cover it up. … On Monday, track’s world governing body, the IAAF, will hold a council meeting with the stated aim of drawing up a road map for Russia’s return though, in some ways, […]

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Double Jeopardy: Why Kremlin Opponent Navalny is Back in Court

Alexei Navalny file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ola Cichowlas – February 3, 2017) Alexei Navalny, the main leader of Russia’s so-called “non-systemic” political opposition, may again become a convicted felon. If that happens, he’d lose the chance to compete in next year’s presidential race, when Vladimir Putin will likely seek a fourth term in office. This week, as Navalny endures a retrial […]

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Over half of Russians approve of arrests of government officials suspected of corruption – poll

MOSCOW. Jan 18 (Interfax) – Most Russians know about and approve of the arrests of high-ranking officials suspected of bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of office, the VTsIOM public opinion service reported based on findings of a public opinion poll of 1,600 respondents conducted in 130 populated areas in 46 regions of Russia on December 17-18. As many as 55% of […]

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Ukraine’s corrupt counter-revolution

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

In Ukraine, revolution and reform has given way to reaction, with vested interests entrenching themselves even further. (opendemocracy.net – Sergii Leshchenko – December 30, 2016) Sergii Leshchenko is a Ukrainian journalist and a member of the Verkhovna Rada. All views expressed are made in a personal capacity. Last week, as the world prepared for the Christmas holidays, Ukrainian MPs gathered […]

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Putin’s War At Home

Russia Regions Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – December 28, 2016) As Vladimir Putin basks in his victories abroad, problems are piling up at home. Rustam Minnikhanov, the leader of oil-rich Tatarstan, has denounced a recent Kremlin decision to take more of his republic’s tax revenues, calling it “stupidity” and comparing it to Josef Stalin’s liquidation of the kulaks. Minnikhanov’s broadside […]

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Putin Bans Officials From Owning Foreign Assets Via Third Parties

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 29, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning state officials from owning “foreign financial instruments” through third parties. The text of the new law – which applies to members of parliament, government officials, and law enforcement officers – was published on an official government legal website. The document defines foreign financial […]

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Putin briefed on election-rigging by regional officials

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

(Interfax – December 19, 2016) Russia’s election authority has briefed Vladimir Putin on violations during the last parliamentary poll, some of them “extremely serious”, privately-owned news agency Interfax reported. Breaches of the rules were identified in 23 parts of the country, Ella Pamfilova, head of the Central Electoral Commission, told Putin. “And in some places these were extremely, extremely serious,” […]

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RBTH: 2016 in review: Top 5 political events

Snowy Night on Red Square with Old St. Basil's Lit Up

From the war in Syria to high-level corruption and doping scandals, here are the stories that shook up Russian politics in the past year. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – OLEG YEGOROV, RBTH – December 19, 2016) 1. Intervention in Syria Although President Vladimir Putin stated in March 2016 that the operation in Syria, which began in September 2015, […]

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Medvedev says Ulyukayev’s dismissal after losing president’s trust is not ‘guilty verdict’

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

MOSCOW. Dec 15 (Interfax) – The resignation of former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev after he lost the president’s trust and confidence does not mean Ulyukayev has been found guilty of the crimes he has been accused of, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. “The president made the decision to dismiss the former minister from his duties due to loss of […]

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RBTH: Over 1,000 Russian athletes involved in doping scandal – McLaren report

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

In a more detailed version of the report released in July, the head of the independent WADA commission has announced that the international doping scandal implicates over 1,000 Russian athletes, and has repeated accusations of state involvement. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXEY MOSKO, RBTH – December 12, 2016) The publication of the long-awaited second part of the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian bribery probe widens amid reports of Kremlin power struggle” – Washington Post/David Filipov

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

“… Russia’s state-run news agency reported … more officials could be targeted in the corruption probe that has already led to the arrest of the … economic development minister. Other news reports … name[d] names, all of them of officials close to … Medvedev, leader of the so-called liberals, who tend to favor a smaller state role in society and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Fate of Russia’s Liberals” – Stratfor

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

Russia’s economic and political problems are piling up, and they may be putting members of the country’s more liberal circles at risk. In the most high-profile arrest to be made in post-Soviet Russia – and arguably, since the 1950s – Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukayev was detained … on charges of bribery and extortion. … Russian authorities [said] Ulyukayev received $2 […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Opposition Leader Navalny’s Case Sent for Retrial” – AP

Alexei Navalny file photo

Russia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday scrapped a criminal conviction and sent the case of opposition leader Alexei Navalny for retrial, opening the door for his potential run for office.  … convicted in 2013 of embezzling timber …. Following unsuccessful appeals in Russia, Navalny, a trained lawyer, turned to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled in February that Russia […]

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The Loyalty of Fear; Putin sends a message to the elite with the arrest of Russia’s economic development minister

File Photo of Rosneft and Russian Flags Next to Rosneft Banner

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Eva Hartog, Mikhail Fishman – November 16, 2016) It was an awkward, dramatic national moment for Russia: a bonafide minister of the federal government standing in court as the defendant, facing corruption charges and promising his cooperation to prosecutors, pleading to be released on bail. The hearing ended slightly anticlimactically, with a decision to place […]

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Updates: Russian Economy Minister Ulyukayev Appears in Court on Corruption Charge

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

The longstanding minister has been formally charged on corruption allegations. (Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 15, 2016) Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has appeared in Moscow’s Baumansky court to face corruption allegations. Ulyukayev was charged with accepting a $2-million bribe on Tuesday, having been arrested by agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) late on Monday night. The […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Makes U-Turn After Evicting Amnesty From Moscow Office” – Reuters

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

… Amnesty International can return to the Moscow office it was evicted from this week, a Kremlin human rights adviser said on Thursday …. Amnesty has been a vocal critic of Russia over its bombing campaign in Syria and had said it believed the eviction might be part of an official crackdown on civil society groups. … Kremlin officials have […]

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Russia Supreme Court Proposes Ban on Pre-Trial Detention for Economic Crimes

File Photo of Two Persons Shaking Hands and Exchanging Cash

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 3, 2016) The plenum of Russia’s Supreme Court has proposed banning the arrest of individuals accused of several varieties of economic crimes, the Prime news agency reported Thursday. According to the proposal, suspects can still be detained, but cannot be kept in pre-trial detention if they stand accused of several economic crimes: commercial fraud, […]

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Russians Losing Trust in Government and Putin – Poll

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 13, 2016) Trust in Russia’s government has plummeted by almost half in the past year, a survey by the independent pollster Levada Center revealed Thursday. Just 26 percent of respondents said that they trusted Russia’s government, down from 45 percent in 2015, the Interfax news agency reported. Only 22 percent said that they had […]

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NEWSLINK Carnegie Moscow/Andrey Movchan: “How Does the Head of an Anti-Corruption Agency Wind Up With $120 Million in Cash?”

Cash, Calculator, Pen

The $120 million in cash found in Dmitry Zakharchenko’s sister’s home must have come from some sort of illegal business activity-likely involving the contraband market.

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NEWSWATCH: “This Week Marks the 10th Anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s Murder; The legacy of the fearless Russian journalist’s muckraking reporting still lives on.” – The Nation

Anna Politkovskaya file photo

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Publisher and Editor of The Nation, memorializes slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya on the 10-year anniversary of Politkovskaya’s assassination, and considers some of the dangers and other challenges impacting Russian journalists. It is 10 years since Russia and the world lost a great and courageous journalist. The killing of Anna Politkovskaya on October 7, 2006, was horrifying […]

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In Putin’s World, Crime Pays

Ukraine Air Crash Scene with Uniformed Security Personnel, Flames, Smoke

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – October 3, 2016) By most objective standards, last week’s news should have been an unmitigated disaster for Vladimir Putin’s regime. By most objective standards, the Kremlin should be worried that it risks becoming an international pariah. By most objective standards, September 28 should have been a dark day for Russia. Dutch investigators on […]

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Kremlinology: an intervention; Protests and strikes across Russia show that the country’s “silent majority” is becoming louder. But are pundits even listening?

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

(opendemocracy.net – Sean Guillory – September 13, 2016) Sean Guillory lives in Pittsburgh. He hosts the SRB podcast, a weekly podcast on Eurasian politics, history and culture, and blogs for seansrussiablog.org. You can follow him on Twitter @seansrussiablog. Writings on contemporary Russia are mostly variations on the same subject: Vladimir Putin; his rise to and iron grip on power. Western […]

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NEWSWATCH: “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories” – New York Times

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

The New York Times addresses concerns about Russian disinformation campaigns, including Russia’s reputed involvement with a rash of misleading material on social media disrupting NATO-related debate in Sweden. With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on […]

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NEWSLINK The Nation/Sarah Lindemann-Komarova: “How A Siberian Mom Took on Politics as Usual in Russia and Won.”

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

In Siberia, Natalia Pinus is taking on established political forces and challenging the idea that Russian democracy is no more than a puppet show

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Russians blame government for price rise, insufficient social protection – poll

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

MOSCOW. Aug 25 (Interfax) – Russians mostly criticize the national government for “being unable to deal with the price rise and shrinking household income” (42%) and “failing to ensure social protection” (34%), the Levada Center told Interfax. The price rise problem is losing its topicality (48% in January 2016 vs. 55% in 2015), while social protection demands are on the […]

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A Long Jump: Russia Claims Moral Victory From Rio Olympics

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

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Tom Balmforth – MOSCOW, August 22, 2016) Russia’s medal haul at the Summer Olympics in Rio was the country’s smallest since the 1912 games in Stockholm, but that did not deter various officials and pundits from spinning the result as a victory for Moscow — or a moral one, at the least. With much of its […]

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Angry Farmers Stage Tractor March on Moscow

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Howard Amos – August 22, 2016) Several hundred farmers from southern Russia complained of intense police harassment Monday as they entered the second day of a drive towards Moscow they are staging to raise awareness about the problem of local corruption. In the space of 24 hours, their convoy of tractors and cars was stopped […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why Russia’s Olympic scandals could benefit Vladimir Putin” – Yahoo

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

If you think the Russian doping scandal has brought shame and humiliation to Vladimir Putin’s nation, perhaps you need to think again. Experts on Putin and Russia tell Yahoo Sports it may be the opposite: that the doping allegations and the Paralympic ban actually has confirmed suspicions widely held – the rest of the world is unfairly biased against Russia. […]

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Confessions of a Kremlin conspiracy theorist; Let’s face it: movements inside Russia’s power structures often signal exactly what we want them to.

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(opendemocracy.net – Mark Galeotti – August 1, 2016) Mark Galeotti is currently Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and a visiting fellow at the ECFR, although from August he will be principal director of the Mayak Intelligence consultancy in Prague and senior researcher at the Czech Institute for International Relations. He blogs on Russian security affairs at In […]

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Vladimir Putin Is His Economy’s Worst Enemy

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – July 27, 2016 – Editorial) Russian President Vladimir Putin urgently needs to revive his country’s economy. His greatest obstacle will be himself. While Americans argue about the extent of Russia’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election, Putin is battling a recession at home. To that end, he has recently focused on the ruble’s exchange rate: A […]

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‘Thieves-in-law’: Russia’s close-knit criminal corporation

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

In mid-July, the police detained Shakro Molodoi, or Shakro the Young, a king of the underworld and infamous “thief-in-law,” who lived in a lavish mansion in Moscow. In the 1990s and early 2000s, people like him were the protagonists of popular Russian TV series, later forgotten – but the “thieves” themselves have not gone anywhere. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – […]

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Hybrid Business — The Risks In The Kremlin’s Weaponization Of The Economy

Hand Pulling Cash from Envelope

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Commentary: Mark Galeotti, Anna Arutunyan – July 20, 2016) Mark Galeotti is a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and director of the consultancy Mayak Intelligence. Anna Arutunyan is a Moscow-based journalist and writer, author of The Putin Mystique. “How many divisions does the pope have?” Josef Stalin was meant to have […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Ban Russia From the Rio Olympics” – New York Times

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

The latest and most comprehensive report on Russia’s cheating at the 2014 Winter Olympics gives the International Olympic Committee all the evidence it needs to ban every Russian team from the forthcoming Rio Games. The report, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate a fast-growing body of evidence against Russia, is damning and unequivocal. … it affirms ‘beyond a […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Bar Russia from the Rio Olympics” – Washington Post

File Photo of Sochi Olympics Banner Near Highway in Warm Weather with Vehicle and Cyclicsts Nearby

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi … no Russian athletes tested positive for doping, and to much celebration they took home 33 medals, more than any other nation. … behind the scenes, a system was in place that concealed the use of performance-enhancing drugs by … Russian athletes. … doping and coverups have been carried out by Russia across a range […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Statement in response to the report by the World Anti-Doping Agency

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

(Kremlin.ru – July 18, 2016) President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Recent events and the tense atmosphere that has formed around international sport and the Olympic movement involuntarily recall the situation in the early 1980s. Back then, many Western countries, citing the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, boycotted the Moscow Olympics. Four years later, the Soviet Union retaliated by boycotting […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Doping Scandal. A new report finds that Olympic cheating was state policy.” – Wall Street Journal editorial

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

Less than three weeks before the Summer Olympics in Rio … an independent probe … produced the most damning evidence to date of a vast, state-sponsored #doping program run by #Russia’s sports officials that included corrupting the testing lab at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. … the report sets up a choice as delicate as it is momentous: whether to ban […]

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Kremlin: Russia Will Not Boycott Rio Olympics

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 11, 2016) Russia will not boycott the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, Russian media reported. Peskov said that “Russia has always looked down on [Olympic] boycotts,” the Gazeta news website reported Monday. He promised to use “all possible mechanisms” to ensure the participation of Russian […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Pyatt: High hopes, some regrets, one big question” – Kyiv Post/Brian Bonner

Geoffrey R. Pyatt file photo

Pyatt is part a big turnover … coming in the Western diplomatic corps, as ambassadors who served during the EuroMaidan Revolution and the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine are being reassigned …. * * * It was in support of Ukrainians’ fight against their corrupt authorities that Pyatt took one of his stronger and more memorable stands. … * […]

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RBTH: St. Petersburg State University researchers battle corruption

Cropped File Photo of Two Men in Business Suits Shaking Hands and Passing Cash

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Gleb Fedorov, RBTH – June 29, 2016) After studying more than 36,000 regional laws and regulations, researchers from St. Petersburg State University (SPbU) have found vague words and terminology that could be misused by corrupt officials. One of the most well-known sayings in Russia is “the law is like a horse harness, it […]

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Governor Belykh’s Arrest Has Russian Elite on Edge

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Mikhail Fishman – June 30, 2016) For the last decade, regional governors in Russia are usually appointed apparatchiks, with faces unrecognizable outside their home territory. There are some exceptions to the rule, like Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the republic of Chechnya. Another rare exception was Nikita Belykh, the governor of the Kirov region, a […]

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Lack of Solidarity Among Russian Opposition an Ominous Echo of 1937, Pavlova Says

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 27, 2016) The reaction of many Russian opposition figures to the arrest of corrupt figures today eerily and ominously echoes the reaction of many ordinary Soviet citizens to the arrest and then execution of many corrupt officials in the late 1930s, according to Irina Pavlova, a US-based Russian historian. And the […]

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All Russians Are Tainted by Putin’s Regime

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – June 21, 2016) The International Olympic Committee’s decision to let Russian athletes compete in the Rio Olympics if they can prove that they haven’t used performance-enhancing drugs won’t be popular with other countries. Nonetheless, it was the right call. But it also carries some unpleasant undertones: It formally requires Russians to prove that […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Olympic Ban Adds to Russia’s Culture of Grievances” – New York Times

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

When a global governing body for sports barred Russia’s track and field team from the 2016 Summer Olympics on Friday over a wide-ranging doping scandal, it was greeted in Russia, as is so often the case here these days, with a deep sense of victimhood. …Putin …called the decision ‘unjust, of course.’ …. Click here for New York Times: Olympic […]

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