The latest gamble of president Lukashenko

By Nina Bachkatov

The vagaries of present international relations were highlighted on 24 May, when the agenda of the EU summit was highjacked by the forced landing of a Ryanair flight bound from Athens to Vilnius, at Minsk airport, to arrest an anti-Lukashenko’s blogger. EU leaders were expected to discuss EU relations with “aggressive” Russia and “post-Brexit” United Kingdom during the opening dinner; then, the following day, to move to key issues affecting European lives, such as climate changes and fighting the Covid epidemy. The manoeuvre of President Lukashenko cannot have been left without response, but it provided EU with the unexpected opportunity to demonstrate its decisiveness and unity, at very short notice. Continue reading “The latest gamble of president Lukashenko”

Putin dots his I’s

By Nina Bachkatov

In less than a week, the possibility of a war in Ukraine evaporated even if the protagonists continue to feed mutual anxiousness. The Kremlin has used the latest crisis to hammer the message which has been constant during almost two decades: 1/ Russia is a world leader and has to be treated as such; 2/ Russia’s internal affairs are nobody’s business. Continue reading “Putin dots his I’s”

Sanctions, actions, counter actions

By Nina Bachkatov

Unsurprisingly, the EU ministers of foreign affairs meeting on 22 February have given the green light for freezing the assets and banning entry of four officials of the Russian police and justice they consider responsible for the “unacceptable treatment” of Alexei Navalny. In October, the EU had sanctioned 6 individuals and one entity for their alleged participation in the poisoning of the opponent. And each 6 months since 2014, it has been prolonging sanctions taken to punish Russia for its Ukrainian adventures. Continue reading “Sanctions, actions, counter actions”

A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations

By Nina Bachkatov

The 5-6 February meeting, in Moscow, between Josep Borrell, the EU Commission Hight representative and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has opened an unparallel crisis in the rocky relation between Moscow and Brussels. Ups and downs have been part of that relation since the end of the Cold War. But, even at the most difficult moments, the partners would never have indulged in the stream of emotion that followed this extravagant meeting. The deluge of sharp, undiplomatic, declarations reduce the chances to step into a normalisation process in the short time. It would involve a capacity, and a will, to take the risk of being confronted with charges of being sold to the other, or of accepting a humiliating defeat. Continue reading “A bumpy road for EU-Russia relations”

Navalny and Putin, the double challenge

By Nina Bachkatov

The latest episode concerning Alexei Navalny’s return to Moscow came on 18 January, when his lawyer tweeted that the City Court of Khimki decided to detain him for a month. He is accused of “systematic failure” to respect a 2014 tribunal decision giving him a suspended sentence under the condition that he would report twice a month to the police. Continue reading “Navalny and Putin, the double challenge”

Obama’s message to Russia

By Nina Bachkatov

The book of former American president Obama, “A promised land” is a publisher’s dream, selling millions of copies through the world, at a moment when the foreign policy of his former vice-president, now elected president Biden, is everyone guess. Notably about Washington’s future relation with Moscow. Continue reading “Obama’s message to Russia”

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”

Strange elections in Russia

By Nina Bachkatov and Andrew Wilson

Analysts continue to scrutinise the message send by Russian voters during the municipal and regional elections of 8 September to identify the winners and the losers. The sad fact is, probably, that despite the defeat of many candidates campaigning under the banner of United Russia, few liberal opponents won, and that despite big demonstrations the turnover was low. Many “independent” candidates were members of United Russia who did not need instructions from the top to make the switch, beeing too well aware that the label was a kiss of the death. Continue reading “Strange elections in Russia”