NY Dispatches: The future of United Russia

Falling popularity, surprising electoral upsets, candidates that run as independent for fear of being too closely associated with the party… Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, is going through some tough months. Or make it years? Yet, despite the growing challenges, falling popularity and predictions expecting the party’s demise or revamp, it is most likely that United Russia will remain Russia’s most important party in the foreseeable future.

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NY Dispatches: Russia’s new “war economy”

Russia’s economy has enjoyed subdued growth in recent months. However, a damning audit report and the aftermath of a diplomatic spat reveal major structural problems stemming from the president’s reliance on a confrontational foreign policy. 

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The Kremlin in Kazan

When it comes to the few regional leaders who wield actual power in Russia, most think of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov or Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin. The president of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov gets fewer mentions. However, beyond the wealth and the distinct cultural traditions of his republic, Minnikhanov’s networking also has a lot to do with his relatively strong position within Russia’s political elite. But what is he going to do with it?

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NY Dispatches: Russia and the Council of Europe

Yesterday the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Europe’s most important human rights institution adopted the De Sutter Report, a text that will allow Russia’s delegation to continue attending the sessions of the assembly and to participate in the election of the organization’s next secretary general. It will also unlock, for the Council of Europe’s budget, several years’ worth of financial contributions that Russia has withheld. The decision was supported not only by the majority of PACE members, but also the organization’s outgoing secretary general as well as the French and the German government and several Russian human rights defenders. It is a terrible decision, which will leave Russian human rights defenders worse off and will inflict serious, potentially irreparable harm on the Council of Europe. Here’s why. 

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NY Dispatches: Putin’s call-in show

Vladimir Putin held his annual call-in show yesterday. Don’t worry if you did not have four hours to watch it: it was not worth it. Below are some of the takeaways from a show that has gradually become less interesting in recent years.

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NY Dispatches: Ivan Golunov’s case

The swift release of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov from custody after unprecedented protests is a triumph of Russia’s increasingly confident civil society and press. The way it happened also tells us a lot about the worst fears of the Russian president.

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NY Dispatches: Putin’s trust rating

The grotesque revision of the methodology behind the Russian president’s trust rating by the state-owned VTsIOM pollster following a comment by Putin’s spokesman does not only show how malleable statistical data are in Russia. It also tells a lot about a sclerosis of decision-making triggered by a worrying crisis of responsibility.

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