1) INF breach
A top Russian military official has warned that Moscow will target countries hosting U.S. missiles if Washington pulls out of the INF treaty.
— The United States gave Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday to come clean about violations of the treaty, which keeps U.S. missiles that could reach Russia out of Europe.
— “If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won’t leave it without a response,” Russia’s General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said Wednesday.
2) Sanctions concern
Russians are increasingly worried about Western sanctions and international isolation, according to a new survey published by the Levada Center pollster.
— The number of Russians who said they were “very concerned” or “fairly concerned” with political and economic sanctions has jumped to 43 percent over the past six months, up from 30 percent in April, the poll shows.
3) Successful Soyuz launch
On Monday, Russia successfully launched a manned Soyuz rocket into space, two months after a failed attempt.
— The Soyuz rocket carried three astronauts from Russia, the U.S. and Canada to the ISS.
4) A Saudi friend
The Kremlin has said that Putin’s high-five with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit was “based on an interest in further development of bilateral relations.”
— Late last month, the Kremlin said it had no reason to believe that bin Salman had been involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
5) Meanwhile …
Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky is upset with J.K. Rowling after her film “Fantastic Beasts” reportedly snatched 70 percent of screen time in Russian cinemas last month.
The Russian film industry should be protected from the “global machine that is Hollywood,” he said.
With the INF treaty on the brink of ruin, Leonid Bershidsky asks what needs to happen for Russian and American leaders to realize the value of binding deals again.
Christy Monet looks back on the life of Andrei Bitov, a founder of Russian postmodernism who is considered one of the greatest writers of his generation.
After the leader of Chechnya forced a neighboring republic into an unpopular land swap, Neil Hauer explains what’s behind Ramzan Kadyrov’s territorial expansion, and what could come next.
Save the date
On Saturday, Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak at United Russia’s annual convention in Moscow.
On Monday, the trial continues against theater director Kirill Serebrennikov.
On Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency will begin a non-compliance audit of Russia’s anti-doping branch.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin will host an event to mark the 25-year-anniversary of the Russian Constitution.
Have a good weekend! (If you’re in Moscow, here’s what’s on)
1) Kerch crisis escalates
Ukraine has banned adult Russian men aged between 16 and 60 from entering the country, as tensions boil over following a flare-up in the Sea of Azov last weekend.
— Ukraine imposed martial law this week, citing fears that Russia was planning a full-scale invasion.
2) Trump moves
In one of his trademark U-turns, U.S. President Donald Trump has canceled plans to meet Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.
— In a tweet, Trump said he had based his decision “on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine.”
— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the Kremlin regrets the decision.
3) Rap for freedom
Hundreds of supporters Husky attended a concert in Moscow on Monday night to protest a recent crackdown on rappers.
— Husky was sentenced to 12 days behind bars last week but was released early on the day of the concert.
— “Artists are blamed for society’s problems because that is easier than addressing the [actual] problems,” rapper Oxxxymiron, who organized the concert, wrote on Instagram.
4) Female circumcision
Best Clinic, a small chain of private medical centers in Moscow, has come under fire after Meduza spotted an advert offering “female circumcision” for girls aged between five and 12.
— Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia and can be fatal, is not a crime in Russia.
5) Meanwhile …
Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin opened the capital's very first cable car this week, only for it to be closed a day later over a reported cyber-attack. Do Russian hackers never take a day off?
Russia's response to escalating tensions with Ukraine needs to be firm in spirit but smart in execution, says Dmitry Trenin.
Mark Teeter remembers James H. Billington, one of America's principal Russianists of the past century who passed away this week.
Opposition leaders in Russia have a vision for the future, but they’re either unrealistic, or actually not that different from Putin’s, argues Leonid Bershidsky.
Save the date
Putin is attending the G20 summit of world leaders in Argentina this weekend.
On Thursday, OPEC and its allies led by Russia are scheduled to meet in Vienna to discuss production quotas.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will give his end-of-year interview to journalists from a selection of Russian news outlets.
Have a good weekend! (If you’re in Moscow, here’s what’s on.)
1) Free Husky
Russian rapper Husky has been sentenced to 12 days behind bars for petty hooliganism after giving a performance while standing on the hood of a car.
— Police had earlier raided the venue where Husky, who is popular among Russian youth, was due to perform.
— In recent months, several artists have seen their music videos banned and songs blacklisted over supposedly indecent and extremist lyrics.
2) Interpol fury
Politicians in Moscow are in a huff after Russia’s candidate for the presidency of Interpol lost to South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang.
— General Alexander Prokopchuk was widely tipped to win the vote, eliciting protest from many Western countries and outspoken Kremlin critic Bill Browder.
— “They disseminated information discrediting Prokopchuk’s dignity and reputation in order to prevent his election,” the deputy head of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee said. “We need to open legal cases and hound them with lawsuits.”
3) GRU head dies
Igor Korobov, a colonel general in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency died on Wednesday at the age of 62.
— The Defense Ministry said Korobov had suffered from a serious illness. Several opposition-leaning journalists said on Twitter they did not consider his death to be suspicious.
— The ministry called Korobov “a true son of Russia” and posthumously awarded him the highest state honor.
4) Blame it on Putin
A new poll by the independent Levada Center shows that Russians are increasingly holding Vladimir Putin responsible for the country’s ills.
— Putin’s ratings have suffered after he backed a plan to raise the pension age this summer.
— A record sixty-one percent of the poll’s respondents said they held Putin “fully accountable.”
5) Meanwhile ❄️ vs.
Two traffic officers in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk were praised after they hurled snowballs at a fire to put it out. And winter has only just begun.
Interpol was never really in danger of becoming Putin’s plaything, says Mark Galeotti, but the West should still breathe a sigh of relief.
The abandoned Khovrino hospital complex was long known as Moscow’s “gloomiest building.” This week, it was demolished. Here’s the story in photos.
Sanctions can be a powerful tool but the West needs to figure out how to avoid collateral damage, argues former U.S. Ambassador William Courtney.
Save the date
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Portugal to meet his counterpart Augusto Santos Silva and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court is scheduled to debate a land swap between Chechnya and Ingushetia, which has sparked protests in the North Caucasus.
On Thursday, Beijing will host the first Russian-Chinese Energy Forum.
Have a good weekend!
1) Peace, at last?
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin this week vowed to resolve a row that has haunted ties since World War II.
— Abe reportedly told Putin during talks in Singapore that the United States would not deploy troops to the chain of disputed islands in the Western Pacific if they are handed over to Japan.
2) Magazine’s revenge
The New Times has dodged almost certain closure this week by crowdfunding some 25 million rubles to pay off a government fine after an unprecedented show of support.
— The magazine was handed a crippling fine in late October by Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor for failing to disclose foreign financing.
— “Russian people are very sensitive to injustice, we are a nation of survivors,” the magazine’s chief editor Yevgenia Albats told us this week.
3) Navalny at ECHR
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered Russia to pay 64,000 euros in damages to opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
— The ECHR said at least two of Navalny’s seven arrests in 2012 and in 2014 had been designed to suppress political pluralism.
— Navalny claimed he was stopped from boarding a plane to Strasbourg to attend the ruling, reportedly because he had not paid off a fine which he said the authorities had not informed him about.
4) Davos sans Russians?
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to pull out of next year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos unless organizers lift a reported ban on three businessmen.
— “In that case, nobody will go there,” he said.
— The Financial Times reported last week that Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg and Andrei Kostin had been told to stay away from the forum this year.
5) Meanwhile ...
A boy dubbed the “Chechen Schwarzenegger” by local media has been given a Mercedes by Ramzan Kadyrov for setting a new record.
Rakhim Kurayev reportedly did 4,105 push-ups in 2 hours and 25 minutes and was asked by Kadyrov to repeat the feat next week for the Russian Book of Records.
Communist Party candidates unseated pro-Kremlin politicians in local elections across the country in September, but that doesn’t mean a socialist revolution is brewing, says Andrei Kolesnikov.
The resignation of Meduza editor Ivan Kolpakov over sexual harassment allegations marks the beginning of a new era of the #MeToo movement in Russia, writes Bella Rapoport.
Irina Korina is one of the most esteemed contemporary artists in Russia. Andrei Muchnik and Albina Shaimuratova visited her tranquil studio to talk about the anything-but-tranquil art that’s conceived there.
Save the date
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will address business leaders at the opening of the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.
On Monday, Vladimir Putin will take part in a ceremony in Istanbul with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mark the completion of the underwater segment of the TurkStream pipeline.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Minsk for talks with his Belarusian counterpart.
Have a good weekend!
1) New sanctions
The U.S. on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Russia, citing the annexation of Crimea and human rights abuses in eastern Ukraine.
— The sanctions target an FSB officer and several companies, including one linked to Bank Rossia and businessman Yury Kovalchuk.
— Russian businesses are preparing for a new wave of sanctions in the coming weeks over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.
2) No Davos, no cry
Three prominent Russian businessmen have been snubbed by the World Economic Forum in Davos.
— Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg and Andrei Kostin have been told to stay at home during the forum, the Financial Times reported this week.
— Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin responded to the news by saying Davos was all the worse for it.
A Russian police officer in Chelyabinsk has accused her former boss of sexual harassment as more women in Russia appear to be going public with their stories.
— “He pressed me in the hallway and unbuttoned my police uniform,” Lyubov Gerasimov told media.
— The news comes as Meduza, a Kremlin-critical outlet, faces a barrage of criticism for allowing its chief editor to remain in his post after a colleague’s wife accused him of inappropriate behaviour.
4) Protest potential
The number of protests in Russia has increased drastically this year, according to a report published by the Center for Economic and Political Reforms (CEPR).
— With less than two months to go until the end of the year, CEPR researchers said they had recorded more than 2,500 protests in 2018.
— St. Petersburg holds the mantle as the city with the most protests.
5) Meanwhile ...
Prison officials this week launched a probe after photos of an inmate gorging on crabs and caviar in prison went viral. Being convicted of murdering 12 people, including children, is no obstacle to fine dining — in Russia, that is.
Lyubov Sobol, one of opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s longest serving aides, could soon emerge as a political heavyweight in her own right. The Moscow Times’ Evan Gershkovich sat down with her this week.
Chekhov, Gogol, Khrushchev and Stalin’s wife — the cemetery at the Novodevichy Convent is the final resting place of many famous and infamous Russians. Less known is that there is also an American buried there. Dmitry Yakushkin tells the story.
Six months after several journalists accused a lawmaker of sexual harassment — and as another scandal at a Russian news outlet makes headlines — the future of Russia’s #MeToo movement looks uncertain. Marianna Spring looks back.
Save the date
On Sunday, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are expected to meet on the sidelines of World War I commemorations in Paris.
Breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine hold elections for new leadership after Alexander Zakharchenko’s assassination in September.
On Wednesday, Putin will address Asian leaders in Singapore at the ASEAN Summit.
Have a good weekend!
1) FSB explosion
A 17-year-old died on Wednesday after he detonated a bomb at the entrance of the Federal Security Service headquarters in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.
— Three FSB officers were injured in the blast, Russian investigators have said.
— The Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into suspected terrorism.
2) Doing Business
Russia has placed 31st in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report which compares countries’ business climates.
— Russia is now ahead of many Western countries such as France and Italy.
— But it has failed to meet President Vladimir Putin’s 2012 target, according to which Russia should have ranked 20th this year.
3) Ukraine sanctions
Russia has imposed sweeping sanctions on Ukraine affecting 322 individuals and 68 businesses.
— The list includes former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the son of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
— Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has called the sanctions "a forced measure in response to the multiple sanctions Ukraine [enacted] against Russian citizens and entities."
4) More responsible
Twenty-eight percent of respondents in a recent survey by the independent Levada Center say they feel responsible for what happens in Russia.
— Only a year ago, that number was just nine percent.
— Levada sociologist Karina Pipia linked the surge in feelings of responsibility to social issues such as the recent pension age hike and increased consumer prices in comments to the Vedomosti business daily.
5) Veiled threat?
Nine sheep dressed in press jackets were sent to the offices of the investigative Novaya Gazeta newspaper on Monday.
— The delivery came days after it published an explosive report about contract killings in Russia.
6) Meanwhile ...
A woman in the Siberian city of Omsk was in the process of paying for her groceries when she went into labor.
This being Russia, however, business continued as usual despite the baby being delivered meters away, footage circulating online shows.
The shop did open a third cash register to compensate for the one temporarily out of order.
After Washington’s exit from the INF Treaty, Russia should strengthen ties with other countries concerned by America’s political adventurism, writes Russia’s former foreign minister, Igor Ivanov.
For the twelfth year in a row, hundreds of Muscovites read out the names of the victims of Stalin’s repression. “We must remember what really happened,” one participant told Evan Gershkovich at the commemoration.
Roller derby, a contact sport with feminist roots, has yet to take off in Russia. The Moscow Times’ Loretta Perera met the women vying to make it mainstream.
Save the date
On Sunday, hardline Russian nationalists plan to stage a rally in Moscow to mark National Unity Day.
On Wednesday, the trial of theater director Kirill Serebrennikov for embezzlement will begin in Moscow. Also in Moscow, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Have a good weekend!