ON MY MIND
The contrast between Moscow and Reykjavik is revealing. Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson is facing calls for snap elections in response to revelations about him in the recently published Panama Papers. Call me crazy, but I don’t expect anything similar in Russia. But the fact that there is accountability in Iceland and none in Russia should surprise exactly nobody. The real contrast to watch is Russia and Ukraine. With Ukraine’s vibrant civil society and pluralistic — albeit chaotic and often dysfunctional — politics, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, like Gunnlaugsson, will probably pay a high political price for the revelations about his offshore tax haven. If and when he does, this will be a tribute to the fact that for all its faults, Ukraine is a democracy. But the end result could be that there will be more political chaos in Kyiv, which will play right into Moscow’s hands.
IN THE NEWS
An international consortium of investigative reporters has documented a network of shady money transfers used by close associates of President Vladimir Putin.
An American student who went missing in Siberia has been found dead.
Fresh corruption allegations have surfaced related to preparations for the 2018 soccer World Cup.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is seeking an armed OSCE police mission for the separatist-held areas of Donbas.
Ukraine is accusing pro-Moscow separatists of new attacks in the Donbas.
WHAT I’M READING
The Panama Papers
Remember Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov’s warning that Putin was about to be the subject of a journalistic exposé? Meduza takes a look at why Russian officials are so eager to warn the public about “information attacks?
Don’t have to read the Panama Papers? No problem. The Guardian has a snappy little video that explains it in under two minutes.
The Panama Papers also exposed an offshore tax haven used by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the British Virgin Islands.
Predictably, the Panama Papers aren’t getting much attention from Russia’s state media. The opposition media is another matter. Here’s Novaya Gazeta’s treatment.
And while we’re all focused on Putin’s offshore financial machinations, Sean Guillory takes a look at the people who suffer the most from the Kleptocratic Kremlin regime: the 19 million Russians who live below the poverty level. Read Sean’s excellent post here.
What political trends will dominate the spring political season in Russia. In a piece in Slon.ru, Konstantin Gaaze takes a look and argues that we should see the elite reconsolidated, an attempt at administrative reform, and new national projects.
Trolls And Terrorists
Bellingcat has an exposé about the links between the infamous troll factory in St. Petersburg and a video released in January of purported Ukrainian nationalists threatening terrorist attacks in the Netherlands.
Missiles In Syria?
Jane’s Defence Weekly has a report about a Russian Iskander missile launcher spotted in Syria
Moscow And Berlin
Reuters has a feature out about the deterioration of the Russian-German relationship.
The Strange Case of Mikhail Lesin
In The New York Times, Steven Lee Meyers, author of the book The Last Tsar, digs up the backstory of Mikhail Lesin, the former Putin aide who was found dead in a Washington hotel in November.
Plato And Putin
And finally, what does Plato teach us about Putin? Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas tackles this unlikely philosophical dilemma.