Putin’s new approach about Ukraine

By Nina Bachkatov

The successful Ukrainian counteroffensive, backed by Western new weapons and shared intelligence resources, obliged president Putin to come out. It took the form of a televised address to the nation, against a background of leakages and unusual stage crafting. It was first due to take place on the 20th evening, then it was postponed for the next day, at 8, then at 9 o’clock. That was enough to unleash new speculation concerning Putin’s physical and moral condition. The usual well-informed sources said that he had been so affected by fever and coughs that he was unable to face the cameras, despite the dispatch of a large medical staff; and that the program shown as a single tirade was in fact a re-mix of interrupted sessions.

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Another war in Donbass

By Nina Bachkatov

The Russian offensive in the Donbass on 19 April has been changing the face of the war in Ukraine. For the Kremlin, it was the opportunity to come back with its original narrative about a “special operation” forced upon itself as guarantor of its “brothers”’ security and freedom. Brothers, who supposedly, were threatened by Ukrainian “neo-nazis” who seized power in Kiev and Western Ukraine in 2014 and who trapped them in a pocket territory.  For president Zelensky, the Donbass offensive was the sign that the Kremlin, unable to seize Kiev, was coming back from the East, backed by separatist forces, with the intention to destroy Ukraine as a nation and a state.

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The multi-faced Russian Duma election

By Nina Bachkatov

The importance of the Russian parliamentary elections, held on 17-19 September, is not so much a question of counting the level of participation, the percentage obtained by different parties and the number of seats attributed in the next Duma. Nor the level of indignation and protests expected from the West and the Russian opponents after the publication of official results. It will not say much about president Putin’s personal support. But, in a system where the president is the supreme referee, the electoral results will be used by competing groups to turn the compass of Vladimir Putin in their direction.

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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”