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It’s a life-or-death matter to run for president in Russia against Vladimir Putin

September 22, 2017 | LOS ANGELES TIMES
With the Russian presidential election coming next March, the political atmosphere for Kremlin critics has turned hostile, even downright dangerous. Earlier this month, Yulia Latynina, one of Russia’s most prominent journalists and a fierce detractor of Vladimir Putin, announced she had left Russia with her family and would not be returning anytime soon. Read full article>>

Here’s my president

June 28, 2017 | THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
In his four-hour documentary, The Putin Interviews, conducted with the Russian President between July 2015 and February 2017, Oliver Stone provides us with only a few insights into Vladimir Putin as a person. Read full article>>

Fatal Russian Poison in London: The Report

April 21, 2016 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
When Sir Robert Owen’s much-anticipated report on the November 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB/FSB agent exiled in Britain, was released at London’s Gray’s Inn on the morning of January 21, most of those present probably turned immediately, as I did, to Part 9: “Who Directed the Killing?” Read full article>>

Stalin: His Daughter and His Crimes

November 19, 2015 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
In her revealing biography of Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Rosemary Sullivan portrays a woman who was never able to find herself…It is no wonder that Svetlana could not lead what most of us think of as a normal life, since she lived in the shadow of one of the most ruthless dictators of the twentieth century. Read full article>>.

Why Is Putin So Popular?

December 2014 | PROSPECT MAGAZINE
The Russian economy has been in a downward spiral for several months, with inflation now at 8.3 per cent, food products disappearing from shop shelves, capital flight from the country accelerating, its Gross Domestic Product declining and the value of the rouble at a four-year low. Yet Russians, for the moment at least, are more satisfied with their President than ever before. Putin’s approval ratings are over 80 per cent and surveys conducted by the independent Levada Centre over the past two months show that more than 60 per cent of Russians are content with the direction in which the country is going. Read full article>>.

Putin’s Downhill Race

September 26, 2013 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
When the Russian city of Sochi, on the Black Sea, was chosen as the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics in 2007, Vladimir Putin had every reason to be pleased. Russia was given a chance to show the world the accomplishments of his regime. Now that he is again Russia’s president, after a four-year hiatus as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, Putin himself will be at the center of the events. But the Olympics might not turn out as he and his Kremlin colleagues have envisioned.Read full article>>.

Finally, We Know About the Moscow Bombings

November 22, 2012 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
In 2000 Sergei Kovalev, then the widely respected head of the Russian organization Memorial, observed in these pages that the apartment bombings in Russia in September 1999, which killed three hundred people and wounded hundreds of others, “were a crucial moment in the unfolding of our current history. After the first shock passed, it turned out that we were living in an entirely different country….”

The bombings, it will be recalled, were blamed on Chechen rebels and used as a pretext for Boris Yeltsin’s Kremlin to launch a bloody second war against Chechnya, a republic in the Russian Federation. They also were crucial events in promoting Vladimir Putin’s takeover of the Russian presidency as Yeltsin’s anointed successor in 2000 and in ensuring his dominance over the Russian political scene ever since.Read full article>>.

The craft so long . . .

June 15. 2012 | THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
In private comments caught on microphone in March, Barack Obama promised the departing Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, that he intends to show more “flexibility” in dealing with the Kremlin once the November US elections are out of the way (assuming, of course, that he wins). But Obama might think twice about plans to reach out to Russia if he reads Edward Lucas’s new book.

As Deception: Spies, lies and how Russia dupes the West makes clear, Russian politics has not changed as much as one might think since the days of the Soviet Union. Certain features – corruption, xenophobia and contempt for democracy – are still there. Among the examples Lucas cites is the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a young and courageous Russian tax lawyer who was enlisted by a British investment company, Hermitage Capital Management, to handle a tax dispute. After Magnitsky uncovered massive fraud on the part of Russian authorities, including the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB), he was arrested. He died in prison in November 2009, as a result of physical abuse and lack of medical care. Read full article>>.

The Mysterious End of the Soviet Union

MARCH 22. 2012 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
With protests against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continuing in the aftermath of his recent victory in the presidential election, the August 1991 coup attempt in Moscow seems particularly relevant to our understanding of what is now happening in Russia.1 The failed coup led not only to the disintegration of the Soviet Union—and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s departure from the political scene—four months later but also to Russia’s subsequent evolution into what the Kremlin euphemistically calls a “managed democracy.” Had the coup not been attempted, Vladimir Putin, at the time a mid-level KGB officer, would not now be about to begin a third term as Russia’s president, attempting to preserve a corrupt and lawless political system. Was there a possibility in 1991 for things to have turned out differently, perhaps in the direction of democratic reform? Read full article>>.

A Chilly Prospect for Vladimir Putin

FEBRUARY 8. 2012 | THE GLOBE AND MAIL
When Russian democratic opposition leader Boris Nemtsov woke up on Feb. 4 and saw that the outside temperature in Moscow was minus 22 degrees, he was worried. Mr. Nemtsov had put great store in the planned demonstration against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square that day. But, given the extreme cold, he figured only 10,000 to 15,000 people (a much smaller number than at the protests in December) would show up. “Thank God that I was seriously mistaken,” Mr. Nemtsov wrote in a blog. “Muscovites turned out to be more decisive, stronger and more determined than I thought.”   When Russian democratic opposition leader Boris Nemtsov woke up on Feb. 4 and saw that the outside temperature in Moscow was minus 22 degrees, he was worried. Mr. Nemtsov had put great store in the planned demonstration against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square that day. But, given the extreme cold, he figured only 10,000 to 15,000 people (a much smaller number than at the protests in December) would show up. “Thank God that I was seriously mistaken,” Mr. Nemtsov wrote in a blog. “Muscovites turned out to be more decisive, stronger and more determined than I thought.”   Read full article>>

 

The Concealed Battle to Run Russia

JANUARY 13, 2011 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
Despite their professed mutual respect, Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, and his prime minister, Vladimir Putin, apparently cannot agree on one question—which of them will be running for the Russian presidency in March 2012. Over a year ago Putin told foreign journalists that he and Medvedev would at some point “sit down and come to an agreement” about who would be the presidential nominee of United Russia, the overwhelmingly pro-Kremlin party, in the next election. (He repeated the same promise in a recent interview with Larry King on CNN.) But that moment has yet to come, and in the meantime, both men are provoking speculation about their possible candidacies. Read full article >>

Forever Putin?

FEBRUARY 11, 2010 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
How long will Vladimir Putin last? It is hard to imagine Russia without its steely-eyed, iron-fisted, and hugely popular prime minister, especially since he has hinted so broadly that he might run again for the Russian presidency when the term of his protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, expires in 2012. Starting in that year, the Russian presidential term will extend from four to six years (a change introduced by Medvedev) and Putin would legally be allowed to serve two more terms. This means he could conceivably be Russia’s leader until May 2024, when he would be seventy-one years old. Read full article >>

Secrets and lies

OCTOBER 29, 2010 |THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Dmitri Bystrolyotov, a spy for Stalin’s foreign intelligence service in the 1920s and 30s, was, by all accounts, a larger-than-life figure. Extraordinarily handsome, sophisticated and highly resourceful, he was well suited to the job of being a secret agent in Europe between the World Wars. His career ended abruptly when, like many other Soviet intelligence operatives, he fell victim to Stalin’s purges. He was arrested in Moscow in 1938 and sent to the Gulag, where he languished until after Stalin’s death. Released in 1954, he was relegated to an impoverished life as a translator. Having never been officially employed by the foreign intelligence service, he was denied a KGB pension. Read full article >>.

Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?

NOVEMBER 6, 2008 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
On the afternoon of October 7, 2006, forty-eight-year-old Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was at the Ramstor Shopping Center on Frunze Embankment in Moscow. In addition to her usual groceries, she was buying special food for her daughter, Vera, who was expecting her first child. Anna and Vera had been talking with each other on their cell phones throughout the day. The baby would be called Anna, after her grandmother, but Politkovskaya would not live to see her. Read full article >>

The Truth About Putin and Medvedev

MAY 15, 2008 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
As he prepares to step down from the Russian presidency in early May, Vladimir Putin has been boasting about his accomplishments. In a speech to the State Council on February 8, he talked of the stability that his government had established, thanks to which “people once more have confidence that life will continue to change for the better.” A few days later, during the last of his long annual press conferences as president of the Russian Federation, Putin said: “I have worked like a galley slave throughout these eight years, morning till night, and I have given all I could to this work. I am happy with the results.” Read full article >>

The Truth about Wallenberg

SEPTEMBER 20, 2001 | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
On January 13, 1945, the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, accompanied only by his chauffeur, left his legation in Budapest for a meeting with officers of the advancing Soviet army, which was then in the process of “liberating” the city from the pro-Nazi government. Wallenberg’s apparent purpose in seeking out the Soviets was to ensure the protection of Jews and their property in Budapest, and to make security arrangements for members of his legation. Wallenberg was not a career diplomat. He was a businessman with experience in Hungary who had, on the initiative of American officials, been appointed to work in Budapest as an employee of the War Refugee Board (WRB), an agency established by President Franklin Roosevelt for the purpose of rescuing Jews from the Nazis. To assist Wallenberg, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided him with a diplomatic passport and the rank of legation secretary at the Swedish legation. From July 9, 1944, the date of his arrival in Budapest, to the following December, Wallenberg saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from deportation to death camps, both by issuing them “protective passports” (documents which gave the holder the protection of the Swedish legation) and in some cases by negotiating directly with the Nazis for their freedom in exchange for money. Read full article >>

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