The end of Mikhail Gorbachev, an unheroic hero

By Nina Bachkatov

A deluge of comments has been published since the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, passed away on 30 August. No doubts he was different from his predecessors, notably by his approach of power and image well before P.R. invaded political action. After his election as general secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party, in March 1985, Soviet media had published his official pictures, in line with decades old traditions of portraying leaders with smooth faces defying age – and reality. Gorbachev immediately banned the practice, ordering his pictures to show the characteristic red spots on his scalp.

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Grain war in the Black Sea

By Nina Bachkatov

Three months after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, a new front has been open – about grain’s exports and global food security. The concept was hardly mentioned before the fall of Mariupol, when international attention switched from the fights around Azovstal to the inaccessibility of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. The accent has been put on its global consequences, from the prices’ increase of basic food in the West to the risk of famine in poor countries. In a couple of weeks, Westerners preoccupied with energy bills discovered that a third of the 200-300m tonnes of cereals exchanged yearly through the world were coming from Russia and Ukraine.

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Strange victory day in Moscow

Nina Bachkatov

The address of president Putin during the 9 May Victory Parade on Red square was shorter than usual. The number of men and equipment was reduced by 30%compared to previous years; seats on the side of Lenin’s Mausoleum, traditionally packed with foreign diplomats and officials, were sparsely occupied. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, had anticipated unpleasant questions by announcing that no invitations had been sent to former allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, nor to Germany or Japan, because it was not an even date, just the 77 th anniversary; and that the event will be scaled down. The surprise was not so much about what Putin said, but what he didn’t.

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The orphans of Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Nina Bachkatov

The picture of President Putin dropping the traditional red carnations on the coffin of Vladimir Zhirinovsky might look like another episode of contemporary Russia’s charade. But the death, on 6 April, of the 75-year-old ultranationalist, leaves a hole in the political landscape that has been built in Russia during the last 30 years. Zherenovsky’s latest speech at the Duma, in December 2022, has been so extravagant, even by his standards, that it was received as another sign of his mental decline. It included his description of 2022 as “a year when Russia finally becomes great once again, and everyone has to shut up and respect our country”.

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As the Ukrainian crisis is unfolding

By Nina Bachkatov

It is impossible to compete with the flow of information, reports on the spot and inside analysis covering the multilayered dimension of Ukraine’s invasion by Russian armed forces. But some elements are worth to mention at this stage.

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Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit

By Nina Bachkatov

Both presidents Biden and Putin wanted to meet ‘face to face’, for their own national and geopolitical reasons. The Geneva summit can only offer a mix of “though messages” and basic discussion on matters of “mutual interests”. Among them, Afghanistan, a theme largely absent in European media coverage. Biden wants to fulfil his electoral promises to withdraw from Afghanistan and Putin is seriously concerned about stability on its southern borders. Continue reading “Afganistan’s shadow on Geneva summit”

Victory day in Moscow, with nuances

By Nina Bachkatov

On 9 May, on Moscow Red Square, the military parade was as usual: a brilliant ballet of contrasting uniforms, smart military bands, the triple Hurrahs. But the speech of Putin was even more Putinesque, reflecting years of evolution during which Russians has been cut from their WWII allies. He repeated that, make no mistakes, Russia’s might is “ready to defend the motherland”, and its population determined to join if needed. This was a not too subtle way to remember the “enemies of Russia” that they should think twice before to indulge in provocation or “hostile” gesture. Continue reading “Victory day in Moscow, with nuances”