Displaying items by tag: Vladimir Putin
Russia declared Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (a member of the Pussy Riot band) and prominent satirist Viktor Shenderovich ‘foreign agents’ as authorities press ahead with a crackdown on dissent. The justice ministry also added to its list of ‘foreign agents’ journalist Taisiya Bekbulatova and art collector Marat Gelman. ‘These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds.’ the government said in a statement. Shenderovich is a prominent anti-Kremlin satirist and political observer. Anyone identified as a ‘foreign agent’ must disclose sources of funding and accompany all texts, videos and social media posts with a caption mentioning content from a ‘foreign agent’: this is reminiscent of the Soviet-era term ‘enemy of the people’. Independent media outlets including Rain TV and a popular Russian-language website have also been branded as foreign agents. Russia claims that there is increased interference from abroad, meddling in Russian affairs.
Before talking in Geneva relations between the USA and Russia were at rock bottom. After talking, both presidents praised their talks but have made little concrete progress at the first such meeting since 2018. Disagreements were stated, said Joe Biden, but not in a hyperbolic way, and he said Russia did not want a new cold war. Vladimir Putin said Mr Biden was an experienced statesman and the two ‘spoke the same language’. They agreed to begin a dialogue on nuclear arms control and said they would return ambassadors to each other's capitals. However, there was little sign of agreement on cyber-security, Ukraine, or the fate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in a penal colony. Mr Biden said there would be ‘devastating consequences’ for Russia if Navalny died in prison. Mr Putin hinted at a possible deal on exchanging prisoners, saying he believed compromises could be found.
US president Joe Biden and Russian president Putin will meet in Geneva on 16 June. They first met in 2011, when vice-president Biden told Putin, ‘I don’t think you have a soul.’ They clashed again in 2014, when Biden was tasked with bolstering Ukraine in the wake of its protests and pressuring Russia to scale back military interference in eastern Ukraine. Putin then pushed back against Biden and the strain of US policy he represented. In 2016 Putin had his intelligence services interfere with the US presidential election, hoping Donald Trump, once elected, might reverse Obama’s administration stance on Russia. In the ensuing years, Putin’s minions likely passed information or misinformation to Biden’s son Hunter, which Trump’s supporters eagerly received and did their best to deploy in the 2020 campaign. With so much jagged history between them, the meeting will be awkward at a personal level.
US president Joe Biden and Russia's president Vladimir Putin will hold their first summit on 16 June in Geneva, setting the stage for a new chapter in their fraught relationship. The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, seeking to restore predictability and stability to the US-Russia relationship. The Kremlin said that Putin and Biden would be discussing ‘issues of strategic stability,’ as well as ‘resolving regional conflicts’ and the Covid-19 pandemic. Biden, making his first international trip as president, will go to Geneva immediately after separate summits with his key Western allies in the G7, NATO, and the EU. To prepare the ground, US secretary of state Antony Blinken and veteran Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met last week in Reykjavik. After their meeting, a Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that repairing ties ‘will not be easy’, but he saw ‘a positive signal’.
A long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine is escalating into a flashpoint for superpower rivalry, as a Russian military build-up is met by the deployment of two American warships to the Black Sea. Putin has ordered the largest movement of troops, tanks and missiles along the Ukrainian border since the Crimea 2014 invasion. About 85,000 troops, tanks, missile trucks, armoured vehicles and long-range guns are being transported by train to Crimea and strategic locations near the disputed region. Amongst the armoury are anti-aircraft missile systems last used in 2014 to destroy a civilian Boeing 777 over Ukraine, killing 298 people. Many fear Moscow is on the point of a full-scale invasion, and see the Ukrainian authorities preparing for this possibility. Putin's deputy chief of staff said Ukraine faced 'disintegration' if it pushed Russia into war. Meanwhile Washington is flying reconnaissance planes to monitor Russian activity. See also
Protesters throughout Russia gathered on two consecutive weekends to support jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who accused President Putin of poisoning him with Novichok. Over 5,000 were detained, including Navalny's wife who was later released. The organised protests started at noon in 120 cities. Riot police in heavy-duty uniforms attacked the streets full of protesters. They closed subway stops and cut short bus routes to prevent demonstrators gathering. Protesters shouted, ‘Let him go!’ and ‘Russia without Putin!’ Putin’s ratings have hit historic lows over declining incomes, diminishing freedoms, and poor handling of the pandemic. The following week Navalny was sentenced to nearly three years in a prison colony for violating the terms of his probation while he was recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning. The UK foreign secretary said the perverse ruling targeted the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible. Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any international community member. See
Russian aggression has taken on many different forms. The most glaring example remains the undeclared and ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, which has cost over 14,000 lives and displaced millions. President Putin has also deployed hybrid Russian forces around the world, unleashed teams of assassins, and attempted at least one coup in the Balkans. Russian hackers have set new standards in cyberwarfare, targeting everything from political parties to essential infrastructure. Meanwhile, Moscow has funnelled support to political extremists and separatist movements throughout the EU and beyond, aided and abetted at every turn by a vast Kremlin-backed disinformation machine that has succeeded in comprehensively polluting the internet. The aim is not to defeat the West, but to secure its own position by undermining the allure of the liberal traditions and democratic institutions that allow the Western world to dominate the global imagination.
Sergei Furgal, governor of the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, was interrogated and ordered to be held in jail for two months. Thousands of demonstrators have been gathering in the streets for three weekends to show their anger over the Kremlin's replacement of this popular regional governor. The sustained demonstrations represent a growing challenge for Putin, who is viewed as having a role in sparking the regional crisis after he fired Furgal. Many have called for his resignation. Others chanted ‘Disgrace’ and denounced the acting governor appointed by Putin. According to protest leaders and independent journalists, over 50,000 people demonstrated in Khabarovsk, which would make it the largest anti-government protest there since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Protesters see criminal charges raised against Furgal before his dismissal as unsubstantiated. They are demanding he stand trial at home instead of in Moscow, where he has been transferred.
In Russia’s underfunded health system, staff who transferred to critical care duties were made to write resignation letters after refusing to work with infected patients without protection. Ambulances queue for hours to deliver patients to overloaded hospitals without oxygen, while desperately-needed ventilators are bought up by billionaires to install in their mansions. The president of a medical trade union who said ‘The government is openly lying’ was later detained by police on a trip to investigate hospital supplies. ‘Putin doesn’t care about loss of life, only loss of power’, said a human rights campaigner. St Petersburg has patients lying on mattresses in corridors. Doctors were incensed when Putin dispatched a planeload of medical supplies to New York when they were having to buy their own equipment online. Pray for Putin’s priority to be human lives, not his popularity or finance agendas.
After the elections on 8 September, the ruling party’s majority in Moscow has decreased dramatically (26 seats out of 45, down from 40). This follows two months of intense protest, denouncing the authorities' decision to ban opposition and independent candidates from standing and calling for free and fair elections. The rallies gathered tens of thousands of people; thousands were detained by police, and several protesters have been sentenced to jail terms for ‘using violence against law enforcement’. Experts believe the backlash against Putin's grip on power is getting stronger, and that protest voting will be strong in the 2021 elections which will determine the political future of Russia. Pray for a wave of truth, humility and justice to flow over the nation in the coming months and years.