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  • Current Digest of the Russian Press: Letter From the Editors #25

    Lots of interesting news coming out of Russia right now, and our latest issue of The Current Digest of the Russian Press (CDRP) is just bursting with articles from Russian newspapers on everything that's been going on during the week - all carefully translated into English. Be sure to check out this week's Letter From the Editors below, or grab the PDF here, for a nice round up of the issue's various stories. Enjoy!

    Letter From the Editors: June 17-23, 2013

    “Wanted: candidates for 2013 Moscow mayoral election; only incumbents need apply.” That could just as well be a blurb in political want ads circulating in Moscow these days. The cards are being shuffled for an early Moscow mayoral election called for by “resigning” incumbent Sergei Sobyanin, but it seems the deck is stacked in his favor and other leading players are being kept from the table. How? Vladimir Ryzhkov cites administrative barriers: classic elements of the Kremlin’s “managed democracy” strategy. But the Kremlin needs someone their man could beat in a staged race in order to give him legitimacy, right – or would that be too much of a risk?

    Remember how in the previous issue of the Digest, Putin was criticized for making dubious, irresponsible speculations about Russia’s history? Well, he’s at it again, this time making preposterous claims about the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, which was fought in 2006 or thereabouts, according to the logic of the Russian president’s statements. He also offered grossly inflated estimates of the number of Jews in the upper echelons of the early Soviet leadership. Is Putin simply that out of touch with reality, or is he seeking to recast Russia’s national narrative for political purposes at a time when the economy is showing signs of floundering, and when society – not to mention his own Human Rights Council – is demanding clarifications regarding his administration’s campaign against “foreign agents” (nonprofit organizations)?

    Another out-of-the-blue Putin remark – that Russia’s Higher Court of Arbitration is to merge with the Supreme Court – has many in the legal field scratching their heads. Is this further evidence that Putin has gotten used to living in his own idealistic little bubble, saying whatever he feels like saying?

    Despite the authorities’ tight management practices, it seems someone was able to break through administrative barriers to pull a malicious joke on Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin. An official- looking dispatch was released to news agencies announcing Yakunin’s dismissal. The press ran with the story, not bothering to verify the source or the veracity of the release. Who pulled the hoax and why?

    Ukraine and Belarus might be moving closer toward rapprochement: The countries’ presidents signed a border treaty, but Minsk may have signed it contingent on future Ukrainian purchase orders from Belarus’s overstocked truck and tractor supplies. It seems Ukraine may soon do a little wheeling and dealing of its own with Russia over the modernization of the Black Sea Fleet – could it tie a modernization agreement to a more advantageous gas price? And Kyrgyzstan’s parliament this week has decided to ask President Atambayev to give the US military the boot a few months before an agreement on its presence there is set to expire.

    The US also gets no love from commentator Yevgeny Shestakov, who criticizes the US for using the Syrian conflict as a means to return to a bygone era of being able to act with impunity wherever and whenever. Pavel Felgengauer, on the other hand, says it’s time the West broadened its involvement in that country, as foreign radical Islamists are taking the fight to a new, bloody level on behalf of the Assad regime.

    Those assessments come against the backdrop of a G-8 summit, where, according to some commentators, Russia and the US failed to see eye to eye on more than just the Syrian conflict: The Nunn-Lugar program, counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation (and by extension, missile defense) were among other topics of bilateral discussion. By and large, the summit showcased a resurgent Russia that is flexing its muscles to impress the world, writes commentator Aleksei Mukhin. Or maybe, as Semyon Novoprudsky contends, Russia is merely following a pariah’s path toward self-isolation?


    Matthew Larson,
    Translator/Copy Editor


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