As Elections Loom, Russia’s Opposition Banks On Little More Than A Chance To Air Its Grievances

Russian State Duma Building file photo

Through an unrelenting campaign of intimidation and criminal prosecutions the authorities have purged the electoral field of all but a select few government critics […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Get them while they’re young: Vladimir Putin’s henchmen target Russia’s universities and students” – The Economist

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

“There’s an election coming.” “… But going after politicians and the media, and arresting students and activists, is no longer sufficient. The Kremlin is now trying to get a grip over schools and universities in a more systematic way. In the past nine months some 20 universities and institutes across Russia have had their deans replaced. … Russian students and […]

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Russian Lawmakers Take Step Toward Ban Of Navalny Supporters From All Elected Posts

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

… The measure appears aimed at neutralizing the foundation of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, which Russian authorities are seeking to have declared “extremist” ahead of parliamentary elections […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “In Russia, Alexei Navalny’s Allies Fight to Stay Afloat” – Wall Street Journal/ Ann M. Simmons

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

“With the Kremlin critic jailed and key aides exiled or under house arrest, his supporters are struggling to launch a coherent challenge to President Vladimir Putin.” “Russian authorities are tightening the screws on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s opposition network, threatening the survival of his political movement as he languishes in jail. His key aides are under house arrest or in […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Bullying Russia yearns to be treated as a great power; Vladimir Putin generates suspense in world affairs like some geopolitical Alfred Hitchcock” – Financial Times

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

“… As Russia’s chief decision maker, Putin’s personal moods obviously matter. However, more important is the logic of the Russian system of power, with its demand for … great power status. According to this logic, Russia cannot be ignored and must be a member of the global concert of powers. It believes macho bullying is the entry ticket …. Despite […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Leaders of Russia, France, Germany discuss global crises” – AP

Map of Europe, adapted from image at loc.gov

The leaders of Russia, France and Germany met by conference call … discuss[ing] coronavirus vaccines, the Iranian nuclear standoff[,] … eastern Ukraine, Libya … Syria [and Navalny] […]

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Putin’s New Authoritarianism Existential Threat to Russia and the West, Skobov Says

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium with United Russia Logo, Gesturing

… Skobov says … Putin’s new authoritarianism reflects … worldwide trends and specific Russian realities … a far more dangerous threat to Russia and the West than many imagine … fundamentally different from … authoritarianisms of the past […]

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VIDEO: JRL NEWSWATCH: “How Putin keeps his grip over Russia, even with support waning” – ABC

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

“How much of a challenge does Alexey Navalny pose to the Russian leader?” “[VIDEO FOLLOWS BELOW:] … [After] Navalny … survived a nerve agent poisoning … [and returned to] Moscow … The Kremlin[] … swiftly sentenced [him] to … prison in a trial condemned internationally as … politically motivated. … [Subsequent] large protests … were swiftly and robustly suppressed … […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Moscow Plans Expanded Social Credit-Style Tracking System – Open Media” – Moscow Times

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

Moscow plans to track its residents’ “loyalty” with detailed digital profiles […]

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By Hook Or By Crook: For The Opposition In St. Petersburg, Winning An Election Is Only The Beginning Of The Battle

File Photo of Statue of Peter the Great on Horse Atop Rock in St. Petersburg, Russia, adapted from image at cia.gov

… St. Petersburg conducted controversial gubernatorial and local legislative elections. Observers … reported unjustified delays in the vote count, voter intimidation, suspicious recounts, and other alleged violations. … Nonetheless … [o]pposition and independent deputies nearly doubled their representation […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Khabarovsk [Protests]” – BMB Russia

Far Eastern Russia and Environs, with Khabarovsk Pinpointed, adapted from image at cdc.gov

“… [Khabarovsk] protests … against the arrest of former local governor Sergei Furgal have … been ongoing for … 100 consecutive days … remarkable … [for] Putin era protests. … [On] October 10 … for the first time[] [there was] … a crackdown by riot troops and the arrest of about 30 …. [T]he numbers … have significantly dwindled … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Belarusian leader set to visit Russia as protests continue” – AP

Map of Belarus and Environs, adapted from images at cia.gov

“… Protesters in Belarus have spent a month denouncing the results of the country’s Aug. 9 presidential election as rigged and demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko from the sixth term he won. Facing criticism from the West, Lukashenko has worked to cement ties with his main ally and sponsor, Russia. … set to head to Russia … Monday […]

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Russians Increasingly Say Their Country is Becoming Both More Authoritarian and Less Stable, Levada Center Survey Reports

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, Sept. 9, 2020) The share of Russians who think that their country is becoming more authoritarian or a dictatorship has risen from nine percent in 2015 to 17 percent now, according to Levada Center polls. At the same time, the portion who believe that the country suffers from a loss of order […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russian Authorities Are Targeting Journalists, Historians and Activists. The Rest of Us Could Be Next” – Moscow Times/ Ilya Klishin

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

What’s going on? Nobody knows, but this time it really is scary […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Famous ex-defence reporter arrested, accused of treason” – bne Intellinews

FSB Building file photo

“In what appears to be an escalating crackdown on Russian journalists by the Federal Security Service (FSB), famous defence reporter Ivan Safronov was arrested … and charged with treason. He faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. The arrest is only the latest of a series of arrests and cases brought against leading Russian journalists who have simply […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Pro-Kremlin entrepreneur buys leading Russian business newspaper; Media executive Ivan Eremin to acquire Vedomosti after censorship row sinks alternative deal” – Financial Times/ Max Seddon

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

A little-known Russian media executive with close commercial ties to the state has bought leading business newspaper Vedomosti […]

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Khodorkovsky Marks the Spot: Russia’s Turning Point From Economic Freedom to State Control

File Photo of Judge and Clerk in Russian Court, with Russian Flag Behind Bench

… Khodorkovsky was not the first oligarch harassed by Putin, but this was indeed a turning point. Khodorkovsky was the richest man in Russia at that point precisely because he cleaned up his oil company’s corporate governance. […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Moscow’s First Steps Out of Coronavirus Lockdown, Explained” – Moscow Times

Sergei Sobyanin file photo

Starting Monday, Muscovites will be allowed to walk outside for the first time in two months – with a number of restrictions still in place […]

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Is totalitarianism on the rise in the East? We should distinguish between Orban’s rightfully penalized measures of ruling by decree and less stringent regulations meant to curb the unruliness of a class which has placed itself above the law.

Eurasia Map

(opendemocracy.net – Lucian Tion – May 25, 2020) Lucian Tion graduated with a doctorate from the National University of Singapore, and has been a journalist and theatre/film director for over a decade. HIs cultural politics pieces have been published in Senses of Cinema, Apparatus, New Eastern Europe, Baricada, Revista 22. Apart from film, he is passionate about socio-political and cultural […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Censorship row threatens Russia’s top business newspaper; Journalists at Vedomosti in open revolt against new editor” – Financial Times/ Max Seddon

File Photo of Empty Chair and Desk with Computer, adapted from image at osha.gov

“A row over censorship has plunged Russia’s top business newspaper into a crisis that could either see it fall under the Kremlin’s control or torpedo a deal to sell it, leaving it on the verge of bankruptcy. Staff at Vedomosti are in open revolt against new acting editor Andrei Shmarov … they say he banned writing about taboo topics for […]

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Show Trials in the Information Age

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – Dec. 9, 2019) Maxim Trudolyubov is a Senior Fellow at the Kennan Institute and the Editor-at-Large of Vedomosti, an independent Russian daily. Mr. Trudolyubov was the editorial page editor of Vedomosti between 2003 and 2015. He has been a contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times since the fall of […]

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Putin Personally Responsible for All Repression in Russia, Krasheninnikov Says

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, October 8, 2019) Vladimir Putin is personally responsible for all the repressive acts his system carries out because over the last two decades he not only appointed all those officials who are carrying them out but also has clearly signaled the direction they follow and could change things overnight if only he […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Where else do leaders do what Trump is accused of? Start with Russia. And he has plenty of chances to do it again.” – Washington Post/ Scott Radnitz

File Photo of Joe Biden at Podium with U.S. Seal, With Ukrainian and U.S. Flags in Background

“The House of Representatives is investigating … Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine’s government to dig up dirt on Joe Biden …. [I]ncumbent presidents generally have a modest advantage … in familiarity, fundraising and media coverage. …. [I]n countries where … rule of law is weak, such as the post-Soviet region[ there is the prospect of] using … ‘administrative resources’ […]

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RUSSIALINK: “A Student Arrest Puts Elite Moscow University to the Test” – Moscow Times

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

The Higher School of Economics, a bastion of free thinking since the 1990s, has become caught up in the opposition protest movement. (Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Pjotr Sauer – August 16, 2019) A chill ran down Artyom Tyurin’s spine when he heard the news that his friend and fellow student Yegor Zhukov had been hauled from his bed in […]

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Protest Movement Must Broaden Its Agenda or It will Ebb After September 8, Makarkin Says

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 11, 2019) Many observers, impressed by the growth of the number of people coming out to protest in Moscow in recent weeks, have ignored two important aspects of the situation that are likely to lead to the dying out of this wave of demonstrations rather than to its further expansion, Aleksey […]

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Teflon Putin? Over 20 Years In Power, Scandals Don’t Seem To Stick To The Russian President

Putin Descending a Staircase

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Tony Wesolowsky and Robert Coalson – August 8, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/putin-20-years-power-corruption-scandals/30100279.html) Vladimir Putin was not well known when President Boris Yeltsin picked him as prime minister on August 9, 1999, a key point in his meteoric rise to power. But years earlier, back […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians feel the pain of Vladimir Putin’s regime; The police’s violent response to protesters’ demands in Moscow has intensified anger over a flatlining economy” – Financial Times/ Henry Foy, Max Seddon

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“… Not since 2012, when thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest against … Putin’s return to the presidency, has Russia’s capital seen such a brutal crackdown on demonstrations …. Police trucks packed with young Russians and rows of baton-wielding troops have shown the brute force available to …Putin and his willingness to use it. But the continued […]

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RUSSIALINK: “What to Expect From Moscow Protests This Saturday” – Moscow Times

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 8, 2019) Moscow’s opposition plans to press ahead with more protests this Saturday even after election officials closed all avenues for several Kremlin critics to run for office in the Russian capital next month. The ongoing standoff between Russia’s opposition and its leadership that has taken place in recent weeks has drawn international attention […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Violent Crackdowns on Russian Opposition Reveal Dangerous Policy Shift” – Moscow Times/ Sam Greene

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

“The level of confrontation between the Kremlin and the Russian opposition has increased, and along with it the scale and severity of the law-enforcement response to protests.” “There has been a significant and sustained shift in the Kremlin’s relationship with the Russian opposition[] and … the Russian public [generally] …. Authorities across the country have issued ever fewer permits for […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Some thoughts on the security side of Saturday’s Moscow crackdown” – In Moscow’s Shadows/ Mark Galeotti

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

“… 1. There seems to have been something of a split between the police and the National Guard. …  2. … gas and guns were absent. … an entirely old school shield-and-baton operation …. [without] even … armed snatch squads … behind the lines as backup, suggesting [authorities] knew … they weren’t going to face serious trouble …. 3. Who […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russia’s Super-Important Nonelections” – Kennan Institute/ Maxim Trudolyubov

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Maxim Trudolyubov – July 26, 2019) Maxim Trudolyubov is a Senior Fellow at the Kennan Institute and the Editor-at-Large of Vedomosti, an independent Russian daily. [wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/russias-super-important-nonelections] The Moscow City Council election would normally be a dull affair that few voters cared about. But this year’s election is already hot. A number of prospective candidates claim […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Moscow City Election Commission officially denies registration to 5 candidates to Moscow City Duma” – Interfax

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

MOSCOW. July 25 (Interfax) – Appeals of five self-nominated candidates to the denials of district electoral commissions to register them as candidates to the Moscow City Duma have been declined by the decisions of the Moscow City Election Commission. The decisions were made at a meeting of the Moscow City Election Commission on Thursday, an Interfax correspondent reported. While considering […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Purpose of night searches of opposition activists’ residences was pressure – human rights council” – Interfax

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

MOSCOW. July 25 (Interfax) – The recent searches of opposition activists’ residences were aimed at pressuring them, the chairman of the commission on civic control over law enforcement agencies of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council, Igor Kalyapin, said. “Very large doubts arise about whether these measures are actually founded. I have big doubts that the searches were conducted because […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Kremlin distances itself from Moscow election controversy” – Interfax

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Interfax – July 16, 2019) The Kremlin has distanced itself from the controversy surrounding the registration of candidates in September’s Moscow city council election. “Broadly speaking, this is a matter for the electoral commission, and here the Kremlin simply has neither the authority nor any intention to intervene in this situation,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on 16 […]

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Capital’s Hard Line on Local Election Registration Further Radicalizing Muscovites, Yudin Says

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Paul Goble – Windows on Eurasia – Staunton, July 14, 2019) Moscow residents have never been fans of United Russia and would never overwhelmingly back its candidates, but the authorities have decided to ensure that 90 percent of the local deputies will be from that party using various pretexts to disqualify opposition candidates rather than coopting moderate opponents, sociologist Grigory […]

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Dirty Tricks: Navalny Aide’s Bid For Moscow Duma Seat Brings Out The Worst

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Dmitry Volchek, Robert Coalson – June 26, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/dirty-tricks-navalny-aide-bid-for-moscow-duma-seat-brings-out-the-worst/30022120.html) On the face of it, the task ahead of 31-year-old lawyer Lyubov Sobol seems simple enough. To qualify as a candidate for the September 8 Moscow City Duma elections, Sobol just needs to […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “The Trickiest Task In Russian Politics? Reading President Putin’s Poll Numbers” – Forbes/ James Rodgers

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium with United Russia Logo, Gesturing

“… [Putin] popularity ratings … have become the subject of … speculation — and … significant reinterpretation. … [m]uch of that popularity … built on rising living standards — especially in the last decade … on the back of soaring prices for … natural resources, especially oil …. Putin’s last … election victory … was judged by [OSCE] observers … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Former ambassador: U.S. should stop trying to make friends with Russia” – Missoula Current (Montana)/ Laura Lundquist

Ambassador Mike McFaul file photo

“… Putin, suspecting the U.S. of trying to overthrow him, targeted McFaul for … two years. Russian state media discredited McFaul using propaganda and political harassment. … Obama pulled McFaul out. … [I]s Putin, the man who controls … Russian government and media, really so popular? McFaul isn’t so sure. … Russia is the most highly surveilled country in the […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Duma’s Slutsky backs establishment of think tank to counter color revolutions” – Interfax

Russian State Duma Building file photo

MOSCOW. March 22 (Interfax) – The Social Engineering Agency has been set up in Russia as a new analytical center to develop measures to oppose color revolutions, State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee head Leonid Slutsky said. “In my view, this is a grand idea. It’s the first time that steps to prevent the implementation of scenarios inspired from the outside […]

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Growing Russian Nostalgia for Soviet Past Far More Dangerous than It Appears, Kirillova Says

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 7, 2019) New polls show that the share of Russians who would like to go “back to the USSR” is at its highest levels over the last 15 years, a development many find troubling because it will make the future evolution of Russia toward a normal state far more difficult. But […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Soldier, spy: more details of Vladimir Putin’s past revealed; Russian president, on a visit to a fortress, says he commanded a howitzer artillery battalion” – The Guardian/ Marc Bennetts

FSB Headquarters Building file photo

“… Putin has revealed that he commanded an artillery battalion during the Soviet period, a detail of his shadowy biography … previously unknown. … Putin’s official biography makes no mention of [it] …. According to the Kremlin, Putin joined the KGB immediately after graduating [in law] from … Leningrad State University in 1975. … [spending] 16 years … rising to […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Boris Yeltsin’s shrine in Yekaterinburg brings tears for a legacy smashed by Putin” – Sunday Times (UK)/ Matthew Campbell

Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin

“… An ailing Yeltsin is believed to have chosen Putin, a former KGB officer, as his successor, because he had a reputation for loyalty. He knew he could count on Putin to protect him and his family. … [H]e made Putin promise to ‘look after Russia.’ In the eyes of Putin’s supporters, he has … [brought] relative prosperity … making […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Based on new draft legislation, here’s how Russia would actually build its own, autonomous Internet” – Meduza

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

“The supposed story. … Russian authorities are abandoning the global Internet under the pretext of national security … transitioning to … [Russia’s] own domain name system and Internet traffic routing, where only Russian websites will work. … [F]ederal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, will be responsible for centralizing the state’s control … and all major Russian tech companies have agreed to the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Half of Russians now say Vladimir Putin is responsible for the country’s problems, according to new poll” – Meduza/ Levada Center

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

“… more than half the country … holds [Putin] responsible for Russia’s problems and the rising cost of living, according to a new poll by the Levada Center. Late last month, 55 percent of the country said Putin is to blame …. Ironically, the same number … credit Putin with … economic success and rising prosperity …. Nearly two thirds […]

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1993 Constitution Not to Blame for Putin’s Authoritarian System, Shelin Says

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 12, 2018) Many analysts are inclined to blame the presidentialist nature of the 1993 Russian Constitution for the rise of authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin; but Sergey Shelin argues that is a mistake and that Putin’s approach to rule “arose not because a quarter of a century ago this document was adopted.” […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “A Dissident Wins a Bittersweet Victory Over Putin; Europe’s rights court condemned the Kremlin’s persecution of Alexei Navalny, but the ruling could push Russia further away from the West.” – Bloomberg/Leonid Bershidsky

European Court of Human Rights Building file photo

“… Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has long had a catch-and-release relationship with … Putin and his regime. … [T]he European Court for Human Rights ruled that arrests in 2012 and 2014 violated Navalny’s rights. … likely to bring Russia a step closer to breaking off its remaining ties with European institutions.  The Putin regime has been playing an unpredictable game […]

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