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Harshest Sanctions on Russia Yet—From Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW —When, earlier this year, policy experts suggested that the aggression against Ukraine would be the undoing of Vladimir Putin’s regime, they could not have imagined the speed with which the Kremlin will be sowing the seeds of its own destruction. As Russian analyst Maxim Samorukov has noted, dictatorships often get away with the severest repressions at home—as long as they do not attempt to upset the international order. Vladimir Putin has stepped over the line. His chosen path of confrontation with the entire Western world, his regime’s blatant disregard for international law—accompanied by lies and hypocrisy on a scale not seen since the Soviet days—has already resulted in hard-hitting US and EU sanctions not only on senior Kremlin figures, but also on state-connected banks and corporations.

Putin’s Chess War

MOSCOW — Just as during the Cold War, when sporting competitions between the free world and the Communist camp inevitably acquired a political dimension, big sport is increasingly becoming big politics for Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the ongoing campaign for the presidency of FIDE, the World Chess Federation, that will be decided at the congress in Tromso, Norway, on August 11th.

Police Raids, Intimidation Greet Moscow's Campaign Season

MOSCOW — The campaign for the 2014 Moscow legislative election began, as has become customary in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with police raids. Last week, Russia’s Investigative Committee charged Konstantin Yankauskas, a Moscow municipal legislator and a candidate for the City Duma in the September 14th vote, and fellow election contender Nikolai Lyaskin, with “fraud,” conducting searches in their apartments. Lyaskin was released under prosecutorial recognizance; Yankauskas was sentenced to house arrest and will be unable to file his nomination papers at the electoral commission.

Kremlin Prepares Election Farce in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — This week, the Kremlin-appointed governor of St. Petersburg, former KGB officer Georgy Poltavchenko, became the latest in a string of Russian regional leaders who formally “resigned” their posts in order to seek early reelection on September 14th. Of the 30 gubernatorial polls to be held this fall, 19 will be early elections called because of the resignation or dismissal of the incumbents. The Kremlin and its regional henchmen want to capitalize on the temporary spike in support for the regime after the annexation of Crimea, and ensure reelection before approval ratings start falling again.

Europe's Nationalist Right Votes for Putin

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin may have suffered a setback with the successful presidential election in Ukraine, but he can claim a significant consolation prize. Elections to the European Parliament, held simultaneously with Ukraine’s presidential vote, resulted in a surge of far-right and nationalist parties—many of which are vocal allies of Putin’s Kremlin.

Crimean Tartars Remember Exile—in Kyiv

The 70th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars—when some 200,000 people were rounded up and expelled from their homeland in the space of two days, between May 18 and 20, 1944—was a much more subdued occasion in Crimea than previous memorial dates. For the first time in years, the Crimean Tatars could not hold their traditional rally in the central square of Simferopol and had to gather on the outskirts of the capital after the Kremlin-installed authorities banned most public meetings. Worse still, the Crimean Tatars marked the date in the absence of their leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev—who was deported from Crimea as an six-month-old and later spent 15 years in Soviet prisons for his campaign for the return of the Crimean Tatars to their homeland—because the Kremlin had banned Dzhemilev from entering Russia and Crimea.

Alexander Yesenin-Volpin, Father of Russia’s Human Rights Movement Turns 90

May 12th marked the 90th birthday of Alexander Yesenin-Volpin, a towering figure in the Russian human rights movement—indeed, its founding father. A renowned mathematician, poet, and philosopher who was arrested and sent to psychiatric prisons three times—under Stalin (1949), Khrushchev (1959), and Brezhnev (1968)—Yesenin-Volpin successfully convinced his fellow dissenters in the early 1960s that the right way to resist Soviet totalitarianism was through a peaceful, nonviolent, law-based human rights movement.

Kremlin Moves to Silence Last Dissenting Lawmakers

Independent-minded lawmakers have been an endangered species in Russia since 2003, after the heavily manipulated parliamentary elections cleansed the Duma of pro-democracy parties. Few dare to voice and vote their own opinions. Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has been a case in point. The annexation of Crimea was rubber-stamped in the Duma by 445 votes in favor—with only one deputy (Ilya Ponomarev) voting against, and three others (Dmitri Gudkov, Sergei Petrov, and Valery Zubov) refusing to vote.

Russian Democrats Offer Support in Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine, April 27th — As Vladimir Putin’s regime continues to foment unrest and stage armed provocations in eastern Ukraine, hundreds of prominent Russians—cultural and intellectual figures, civil society leaders, journalists, pro-democracy politicians—gathered here last week to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine and voice their support for a democratic and European future for both countries.

The forum, titled “Ukraine-Russia Dialogue,” was initiated by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the Open Russia Foundation and, for more than a decade, Russia’s most prominent political prisoner. The event was intended, above all, to demonstrate that Putin’s unelected regime and Russian society are two very different things.

Kremlin 'Reforms' Usurp Local Elections, Self-Government

As the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to issue Orwellian statements demanding immediate “federalization” in Ukraine, the Kremlin is moving to dismantle what little remains of federalism and self-government in Russia. This week, the State Duma passed a bill that abolishes direct elections for mayors and legislative councils in 67 cities across the country, including 56 regional capitals. The leaders of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party who spearheaded the municipal “reform” did not even pretend to provide justification.

With federal and regional elections closely managed to avoid any surprises for the Kremlin, municipal polls remained the last opportunity for Russian citizens to express their views. In the past two years, the Kremlin faced a whole series of humiliating defeats in mayoral elections across Russia, including in Yaroslavl, Togliatti, Petrozavodsk, Yekaterinburg, and, just this month, Novosibirsk. It seems that the regime has had enough.

Putin and the ‘Good Hitler’

Just when you think Vladimir Putin’s propaganda cannot sink any lower, it invariably does.

Andranik Migranyan is a seasoned Kremlin hand. A former member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, a cavalier of the presidentially bestowed Order of Honor, he currently heads the New York office of the so-called Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, a Russian GONGO created on the initiative of Vladimir Putin in 2007 (it also has an office in Paris).

UN General Assembly Stigmatizes Putin's Russia

If Vladimir Putin’s propaganda is to be believed, one of his major achievements has been “restoring Russia’s prestige” and making the country “respected again” on the international stage. As with most claims by the Kremlin spin machine, this does not pass the muster.

The 1990s—vilified by Putin’s propaganda—were a period of economic difficulty and political uncertainty for Russia, the former caused to a large extent by the record-low oil prices, and both of them inevitable after the collapse of decades-long totalitarianism. It would not have been surprising to see Russia consequently weakened in its international standing and isolated from global decisionmaking.

Thousands of Russians Protest Putin’s Aggression in Ukraine

On Saturday, between 50,000 and 80,000 people marched through the streets and boulevards of downtown Moscow to protest Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and his illegal annexation of Crimea. Carrying Russian and Ukrainian flags and posters reading “For your freedom and ours,” “For Ukraine and Russia without Putin,” “Ukraine, forgive us,” and “Russia is us, not Putin!” the participants of the country’s largest opposition demonstration since the peak of the protest movement in 2011–2012 marched from Pushkin Square to Andrei Sakharov Avenue.

In Kyiv, members of the Ukrainian Parliament began their session with a standing ovation to the tens of thousands of Muscovites who went to the streets to say “No” to Putin’s actions.

Moscow Braces for Protests Against Ukraine Aggression

You can keep tightening the screws up to a point—but eventually the wood will crack. Too many dictators have found this out the hard way: first pressure on society becomes unbearable, then the regime comes to a precipitous finale. Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovych was just the latest in a series.

Putin and Cronies Only Fear Targeted Sanctions

One can think of a few possible ways to change Vladimir Putin’s mind on the occupation of Ukraine. He may listen to public opinion: 73 percent of Russians, even according to the state-run VTsIOM polling agency, oppose intervention in Ukraine. He may be persuaded by Russian opposition leaders, who condemned the war as “madness of a deranged KGB officer” and a “reckless policy” that “goes against the interests of our country.” He may be swayed by Western moves to suspend military cooperation and threats by Western leaders to boycott the G8 summit in Sochi.

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