The battlefield and political front: a shifting landscape

By Nina Bachkatov

The recent Russian offensive spanning the border between Belgorod and Kharkiv regions has ignited a flurry of discussions among Western observers, centering on terms like “strategic turn” and “historic shift.” These conversations gain particular significance against the backdrop of political upheavals in Moscow and Kyiv. However, the pivotal moment arrived from Washington. On April 21st, the US House of Representatives finally greenlit the long-delayed $61 billion aid package for Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, on May 14th, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a significant visit to Kyiv. President Biden’s swift enactment of the aid package, just three days after the congressional approval, fueled speculation about the quick deployment of American arms from European bases to Ukraine. Later, Blinken’s unexpected return on April 21st coincided with escalating Russian advances near Kharkiv.

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The Kremlin challenged in a Moscow suburb

Two weeks after the March 22 attack in Moscow, the official inquiry has yet to reach a conclusion. What is certain is that the assailants killed more than 143 people, either by shooting them at point-blank range or engulfing them in the fire they ignited. Four men have been brought before the court, their arrests shrouded in conflicting circumstances. In images captured within the tribunal, they appeared severely beaten, with one in a semi-comatose state. This unsettling scene not only raises questions about the methods of the Russian police but also suggests political motives in circulating such a degrading portrayal.

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Russia’s election under unprecedent control

By Nina Bachkatov

Rarely has an election, derided as a mere formality, garnered such extensive attention. From March 15th to 17th, Russian voters are tasked with selecting their next president from a slate of four candidates: the incumbent Vladimir Putin, Leonid Slutsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Nikolai Kharitonov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and Vladislav Davankov of the New People Party. It is widely anticipated that Putin will secure victory in the first round, with predictions suggesting he will capture approximately 75% of the vote. Liberal factions have been significantly weakened through arrests, exile, and even fatalities.

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Vladimir the fifth

By Nina Bachkatov

On 8th February, Russia’s Central Electoral Commission unveiled the four candidates officially registered for the 15-17 March presidential election. They are: Vladimir Putin, running independently for a fifth term; Leonid Slutsky from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR); Nikolai Kharitonov from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation; and Vladislav Davankov from the New People Party. Slutsky and Kharitonov, known figures within the “systemic” opposition, are expected to garner approximately 10% of the votes. Davankov’s candidacy comes as a surprise; at 39 years old, he is the youngest candidate and a member of a lesser-known party. Twenty-five political parties have been granted participation rights in the election.

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No peace in sight in the Eastern front

By Nina Bachkatov

The year 2024 started with good news: 248 Russian and 224 Ukrainian soldiers were exchanged, the first since 7 August. In the meantime, as big prisoner exchanges had been frozen, the only way captured soldiers can make it back to their own side was, and still is, through informal battlefield swaps between commanders. This practice, and the discretion of military authorities, makes impossible any estimates of the number of POWs, certainly many thousands. Kyiv and Moscow claim that the ‘enemy’ is manipulating the prisoners’ issue for their own political motives. The families are less and less inhibited to question their respective authorities to accelerate the negotiations about exchanges – even if the released soldiers are sent back to the front.

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The War Moving Deep into the Black Sea

By Nina Bachkatov

In a matter of weeks, attention shifted swiftly from the Ukrainian land front to the Crimea Peninsula, and subsequently, encompassed the entire Black Sea’s “strategic region.” This transition transpired so rapidly that by March, it remained conceivable to title the situation as “Crimea: the end of a taboo.” Six months later, Ukrainian drones and missiles have become a regular presence, targeting Crimea’s infrastructure and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In the interim, a series of ‘incidents’ unfolded, impacting coastal nations that are members of the EU and NATO.

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Ukraine’s Election Plans Hindered by Ongoing Conflict

By Nina Bachkatov

In a summer fraught with geopolitical tension, Ukraine finds itself grappling with a disrupted electoral schedule. Originally slated for parliamentary elections in October and a presidential vote in March 2024, the shadow of the ongoing conflict looms large over the nation’s political landscape. As early September unfolds, hopes for a much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive gaining momentum cast uncertainty over the feasibility of conducting a fair election. The conflict has left millions of Ukrainians as internal refugees or residing abroad, making voter registration an arduous task with many official documents lost to the ravages of war.

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