Belarus – Armenia dilemnas

By Nina Bachkatov

With all eyes on Belarus, the latest eruption of violence in the Caucasus came as a shock. But, in fact, both crises were highly predictable due to internal and geopolitical complexities. At least they sent a strong signal to the West about the importance of geography and history over ideology. They highlight the danger of reducing the world affairs to a simplistic opposition between pro-Western and pro-Russian forces. Continue reading “Belarus – Armenia dilemnas”

Belarus lessons

By Nina Bachkatov

Whatever might happen in Belarus, the crisis that shacked the country is teaching lessons about the limits of antidemocratic regimes and the limits of outsiders’ influence. Weeks after his disputed reelection, Alexandr Lukashenko, president since 1994, is still confronted to an unusual form of contestation while his opponents face a president unwilling to follow the path of former Ukrainian president Yanukovich. Continue reading “Belarus lessons”

A second constitutional referendum – in the streets of Russia

By Nina Bachkatov & Andrew Wilson

President Putin expressed his satisfaction after a constitutional referendum that was a personal success, despite doubts about the conditions of votes or the organisation of the campaign. In the same time, the referendum tested the opposition, reshaping the border between the “non-systemic opposition” (the “liberal” opposition outside the system) and the “systemic opposition” (that takes part in the Duma and has generally backed Putin’s legislation). Continue reading “A second constitutional referendum – in the streets of Russia”

A very Russian referendum

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

On 3 July 2020, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the decree allowing the publication of the new Constitution including modifications approved by the popular referendum. The vote had lasted a week, ending with what the Kremlin called a huge victory: 77,92% of voters approved those modifications. Vladimir Putin concluded “Russian citizens made their choice”. The peculiarity of this referendum is that it was not needed. Already in March, Parliament has voted all the surprise constitutional amendments proposed by the president in January. Continue reading “A very Russian referendum”

Different dates, same politic

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

If Vladimir Putin wanted to vindicate those who accuse him of hijacking the celebrations of 9 May for political and personal reasons, he could hardly have done better than announcing two successive postponements. The main motive was of course the coronavirus epidemy, still out of control in early May. Putin decided wisely to cancel an event dragging millions of people through the country’s streets. The event was replaced by a low-key ceremony on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, under the walls of the Kremlin, where Putin bowed his head in respect to the 28 million Soviet citizens who lost their lives during WWII. Instead of a military parade on Red Square, jets and helicopters flew over Moscow. Continue reading “Different dates, same politic”

Putin and coronavirus face to face

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The attack of a virus coming from China exposed that Russians are not the different species that some Western media like to picture them. Faced with the epidemic, Russians reacted the same way that others. First with indifference “much ado about nothing” and cockiness “we need more to be alarmed”. Then, when it circled closer and closer, a majority of Russians concluded that the authorities were just lying and rush to social medias to stuff themselves with conspiration theories and extravagant recipes to fight the infection. Continue reading “Putin and coronavirus face to face”

Political energy again dividing Russia and Belarus – differently

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

The latest energy crisis between Russia and Belarus followed a yearly routine, with partners discovering at the end of December that new contracts for energy deliveries have not been signed for next year. As usually, disagreements concern the prices that the producer wants to obtain and those the clients is ready to pay. From gas deliveries, the clash extended to oil. Continue reading “Political energy again dividing Russia and Belarus – differently”

Vladimir Putin’s constitutional charge

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

He has been often accused of dragging Russia into a Brezhnev style stagnation. But, at 67, Vladimir Putin shows he can also strike quickly. On 15 January, during his annual address to Parliament, the Russian president took everyone by surprise when he announced sweeping changes to the Constitution intended to revolution the power system in Russia. Continue reading “Vladimir Putin’s constitutional charge”

Russia and global warming: a dual approach

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Concern over climate changes entered recently into the Russian political vocabulary, but in early January the government announced it had adopted a two years plan due to “reduce the vulnerability” of the life and health Russian population and the economic development economy, but also to “seize opportunities deriving from those changes”. This dual approach reflects the peculiar attitude of Russia towards the challenge of climate change, and its peculiar relation with “nature”. Continue reading “Russia and global warming: a dual approach”

Twenty years in the Kremlin

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Russia often invites brutal comments, and Vladimir Putin even more. The numerous articles written to mark the 20 years of his presidency offer a collection of declarations and predictions made at the time that their authors would prefer to forget. The best of all being the question that an American journalist, Trudy Rubin, obviously proud of his audace, asked to a panel of Russian officials and businesspeople “Who is Mr. Putin?”. That was a few weeks since Putin appeared “from nowhere” – translation “from where Westerners did not see him coming”, contrary to Russians for whom he has been prime ministers for almost 5 months. Continue reading “Twenty years in the Kremlin”