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?

Continue reading

Posted in Kremlinology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. 

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches, Society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches, Policies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NY Dispatches: Firings at the Kommersant daily

This week it emerged that one of Russia’s main business dailies, Kommersant had forced two of its journalists, Ivan Safronov and Maxim Ivanov to resign their jobs. The decision came on the heels of an article published in April about Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. The article quoted insider sources about the imminent departure of Matvienko, to be replaced, ostensibly, by Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence (SVR). The speaker herself was going to be appointed the head of Russia’s retirement fund, effectively a sinecure job.  Matvienko has called these “rumours”. Following the firing of Safronov and Ivanov the entire politics desk of Kommersant resigned their jobs and more than 200 Kommersant employees condemned the decision. Suddenly, a heated discussion erupted over the state of the Russian media.

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

NY Dispatches: Russia and the Council of Europe

On Friday news broke that Russia reached an agreement with the Council of Europe, which will result in Russia remaining a member of Europe’s most important human rights organisation. A qualified majority of the CoE’s foreign ministers approved the deal, mediated by France and Germany.  Seven countries, Ukraine, the UK, Poland, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were against the decision and loudly contested it. They were right. 

Continue reading

Posted in Dispatches, Policies, Society | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment