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Will the long-awaited justice prevail in Ukraine?

Many of Ukraine’s judiciary reforms are starting to take effect. A new Supreme Court has been in place since last December and new commissions are vetting and retraining judges to ensure fair trials and minimise corruption. Activists who advocate reform, however, have expressed disappointment with the judiciary reform process thus far.

The judiciary reform in Ukraine, which unofficially started in 2014, has finally brought its first results. The new Supreme Court of Ukraine began functioning in December last year and the newly established higher bodies of the judiciary are now assessing the judges who will continue working in the general and appeals courts of Ukraine. However, the reforms, which began mostly out of the need to restore trust in the judiciary, have not yet managed to achieve its main goal. The judiciary continues to be one of the least trusted institutions in the country – a view that is shared by the general public and external experts.

April 26, 2018 - Kateryna Pryshchepa

The far right’s disproportionate influence

In Ukraine the majority of the population remains pro-European. Yet, there is a visibly growing influence of marginal far right groups who aim to reshape politics and mainstream discourse. Society either does not notice the effects or it considers these groups as overly emotional patriots. After all, for a country immersed in war, nationalism should serve as a force to unite against the enemy.

After the Revolution of Dignity, many new nationalist parties have appeared on the Ukrainian political arena. While none of them have managed to become a serious political force, some are finding support by successfully blending into the patriotic trend, deftly playing on Ukrainians’ wartime pains. Despite its pro-European origins, the EuroMaidan has spawned a number of conflicting trends. The power of the democratic, liberal protest and the civil struggle for justice was intercepted and replaced by conservatism and the status quo. Right-wing radicals have made use of the tense revolutionary situation in which people appreciate the strong, dedicated nationalist movement that has since emerged, one which first protected the protesters from government forces and then joined the fight against the Russian-supported separatists in Donbas.

April 26, 2018 - Nina Boichenko

From Putin’s Russia to a non-Putin’s Russia

An interview with Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political scientist. Interviewer: Maxim Rust

MAXIM RUST: In your social media posts and comments you often use the hashtag #sistemaRF (system of the Russian Federation). What is this system like today and what is its essence?

GLEB PAVLOVSKY: I use this concept because I wrote several articles where I describe the regime in Russia which does not fit classical categories as a political system or a state. These are disputable issues indeed. What is the Russian regime like, what kind of state is Russia, etc.? The regime is bad but that does not mean anything, because if we make comparisons between today’s Russia and other systems, it means we put Russia in a certain order which may mean that we will lose the key to understanding its essence. This essence is what I am searching for. That is why I use this hashtag to describe the Russian system as a unique aggregation of behaviour and power norms. This system is exceptionally flexible, which is important.

April 26, 2018 - Maxim Rust

Protests force Armenian PM to resign, marking a new era for the country

Serzh Sargsyan's ambitious plan to cling onto power seems to have failed.

April 25, 2018 - Marija Bogdanovic

The Kremlin and the Internet

While the Russian regime is busy with its campaign across the world wide web, it seems to have overreached at home.

April 20, 2018 - Paulina Siegień

A Tale of Two Putins

Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta and having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, can Vladimir Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot. Without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable and at worst dead, and he knows it.

In March Vladimir Putin will, it is safe to predict, win re-election. The real questions relate to what happens after the election, with some predicting a thaw, while others expect even more authoritarian policies. Will Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev be replaced? Will there be renewed overtures to the West? In many ways, though, this may betray our own biases, as Kremlinologists from democratic nations naturally assume that an election represents a boundary point from one state to another. Yet in a system such as Putin’s, sometimes described as a managed democracy, it is much more clearly managed than democratic. Indeed, of late it has come to feel as if the Kremlin regards the various trappings of democracy – not just elections but also press conferences, legislative sessions and consultations – as an increasingly irritating burden.

February 26, 2018 - Mark Galeotti

To challenge Putin’s regime

The Kremlin has nothing to offer Russian citizens except stability without economic growth and no clear perspective. This will eventually bring down Vladimir Putin’s regime. The opposition, however, is not yet fully ready to take power when that happens.

“Yes, Putin has many shortcomings, but there is no alternative to him.” I have heard this phrase in Russia countless times, from shopkeepers and artists, to professors of physics and retirees. I read it in Russian (mostly) state-controlled media. Nevertheless, I am surprised every time I hear it. “Well, of course not,” I usually reply. “After all, Putin takes all necessary steps so that no alternative will arise.” It is the main goal that the giant state propaganda machine, special services, heads of Russian regions and ordinary officials pursue 24 hours a day. Nineteen years after Vladimir Putin was first elected as president, the argument that there is no alternative illustrates only one thing: the absence of democracy in Russia. For many years, the country has been stuck with an authoritarian regime that has all but eliminated political competition and blocked any attempts to change the system. This is the regime’s strength as well as its weakness. Using an expression coined by leading Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova, the increasingly authoritarian regime needs a democratic form of legitimisation – this is the main political contradiction of the current regime in Moscow.

February 26, 2018 - Konstantin Eggert

Russia’s generation P

Russian digital natives have espoused a national identity that unites several governmentally sponsored narratives. The question, however, is how long Putin’s appeal to the younger generations will last. Even though they have not known anybody else in power, they might still be willing to trade great power aspirations for fresh tomatoes in winter.

With the presidential election looming, few people in Russia doubt that Vladimir Putin will remain the president. Google has already proclaimed Putin to be the winner. The Russian president might no longer enjoy 80 per cent support, but he is still by far the most popular politician in the country. A generation that has never known anyone else in power is now entering adulthood. And members of “Generation P” are going to vote this spring.

February 26, 2018 - Elizaveta Gaufman

In the name of Matilda

The controversy surrounding the recent Russian film Matilda reveals a great deal about Russian society today. While the film, billed as a big-budget historical romance of Tsar Nicholas II, fails to impress, the social sensitivities that have emerged as a result of the debate on the film illustrate a dangerous rise in extreme nationalist sentiments that may soon be beyond the Kremlin’s control.

Alexei Uchitel’s film Matilda (released in October 2017) was the most discussed cinematographic event in Russia last year. Similarly, strong emotions were generated in 2014 when the director Andrey Zvyagintsev released his Russian tragedy film, Leviathan. Both productions were accompanied by scandals and received widespread media attention. Admittedly, there is a fundamental difference between the two films. While the latter is a mature piece of artwork (one that tackles the profound problem of the citizen-state relationship), the former has very little to offer, both in terms of content and aesthetics. Assumedly, had there not been a scandal surrounding the release, the world would probably never have learnt about Matilda.

February 26, 2018 - Zbigniew Rokita

Russia’s Middle East crusade

Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East is a result of the United States’ lack of strategy in the region. Through its engagement in Syria, Moscow seeks a return to the first league of global players.

In mid-December 2017 Vladimir Putin unexpectedly visited the Hmeimim air base, southwest of the Syrian city of Latakia. He was the first president of a major power to visit the war-torn Syria since the conflict began seven years ago. The visit resembled a victory parade. While the level of triumphalism was clearly over the top, as Syria is still immersed in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Putin, two years after sending his troops, can deem his endeavour a success.

February 26, 2018 - Paweł Pieniążek

How Russia could leave Crimea

The illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation is becoming a huge burden on the Russian economy and is limiting its modernisation potential. Therefore, one could speculate that a post-Vladimir Putin Russia may decide to undo the process of annexation in order to gain access to much-needed western investment and development aid. If such a scenario unfolds, there are some tools that already exist that could help ease the painful process of a Russian withdrawal.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea has resulted in damaging sanctions on the country as well as political isolation. Under the sanctions, Russia lost its potential for economic development and the annexation has hindered its modernisation. Nevertheless, the Kremlin continues to increase its military presence on the peninsula and refuses to backtrack on the issue. Since the Russian authorities believe the international community is not united on the issue, they believe that recognition of Crimea as Russian territory is only a matter of time.

February 26, 2018 - Pavel Luzin

The politicisation of Russian youth

In Russia, within the younger generation, a politically sensitive “subgroup” has formed and has been growing since 2010. It is no longer just Vladimir Putin's generation, but also the generation of Alexei Navalny and YouTube.

After the protests on the Maidan in Ukraine, the “electro-Maidan” in Armenia and especially Russia’s anti-corruption rallies in the spring and summer of last year, a debate about a new generation of post-Soviet youth has flared up in the media. Is it true that this new generation is more radical than the previous one? Why didn’t young people participate in politics before? How can we describe the life of the modern post-Soviet youth and are they able to finally build a democratic civil society in the post-Soviet space?

January 2, 2018 - Svetlana Erpyleva

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