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Analysis and Comment (167)

The sweet smell of success: Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. The sweet smell of success: Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. EPA/Daniel dal Zennaro

Ukraine steels itself for winter as Putin forges ahead with Novorossiya

The EU-Asia Summit in Milan, Italy, delivered little, if any, tangible progress to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. Relations between Russia and Ukraine’s major European allies remain just a few degrees…
Romanian president welcoming NATO secretary general to Bucharest earlier this year. Romanian president welcoming NATO secretary general to Bucharest earlier this year. EPA

Russia’s borders: Romania strengthens ties with NATO as old anxieties return

In this fifth part of our series on the countries along Russia’s borders, we turn to south-east Europe. As Romania specialist Tom Gallagher explains, the Ukraine affair has made Bucharest distinctly uneasy…
Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists organised formidably online. Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists organised formidably online. Facebook

How social media transformed pro-Russian nostalgia into violence in Ukraine

When Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Victor Yanukovych, was ousted in late February, thousands of outraged and fearful people in southern and eastern cities took to the streets to demonstrate against…
Time for Brazil to pull in the harvest? Time for Brazil to pull in the harvest? Sweeter Alternative

Hard Evidence: who will reap rewards from Russia farm sanctions?

The Russian ban on the imports of some agricultural products from the US, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway has sparked much debate over the likely impact on American and European farmers…
Thanks to sanctions, prices for fish in Russia have spiked by up to 50%. Thanks to sanctions, prices for fish in Russia have spiked by up to 50%. Anatoly Maltsev/AAP

Sanctions are taking Russia back to the worst days of the USSR

When Russia announced counter-sanctions against the European Union, USA, Canada and Australia banning imports of food items from those countries, it was clear there would be imminent consequences. But…
The home-baked illicit drug krokodil first emerged in provincial Russia during the early 2000s. The home-baked illicit drug krokodil first emerged in provincial Russia during the early 2000s. Dorin Popa/Flickr

The rise and fall of Russia’s ‘flesh-eating drug’ krokodil

Reports of a “flesh-eating zombie drug” called krokodil, accompanied by lurid images first appeared in English during 2010. The drug serves as an excellent illustration of the havoc bad drug policies can…
Pls retweet. Pls retweet. EPA/Miguel A. Lopes

How the Russia-Ukraine crisis became a magnet for memes

On May 26, the day after Ukraine elected Petro Poroshenko its president, a meme surfaced on the Russian Internet (or RuNet, as it’s colloquially known) depicting Ukraine as a chocolate bar. A reference…
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docked with the ISS in 2012, the first commercial flight to do so. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docked with the ISS in 2012, the first commercial flight to do so. SpaceX

If space race is to return, we must ensure conflicts on Earth do not continue in space

It is three years since the final flight of the US space shuttle programme, during which time NASA has had to rely on the Russians, its allies, in space at least, to ferry astronauts and supplies between…
Signed, sealed, delivered: Ukrainian president Poroshenko. Signed, sealed, delivered: Ukrainian president Poroshenko. EPA/Sergey Dolzhenko

Restive Ukraine signs EU pact and hands rebels self-rule

On the same day that it finally voted to ratify the EU Association Agreement that helped spark the Euromaidan protests in 2013, Ukraine’s parliament also voted to give self-rule to the rebels holding major…
Charting new waters. Charting new waters. EPA/Alexey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/KREM

BRICS keep supporting Russia in bid to rebalance world power

While Western nations beef up economic sanctions and Nato discusses what stance to take toward Russia, the BRICS are maintaining tacit support for Moscow despite the Ukraine crisis. This is not entirely…
Peace in our time? Poroshenko and Putin shake hands in Minsk. Peace in our time? Poroshenko and Putin shake hands in Minsk. EPA/Sergei Bondarenko

Ceasefire struck, but Ukraine isn’t out of the woods – so what happens next?

It has been reported that the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents have signed a ceasefire agreement at the meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine in Minsk. This had hardly looked assured in…
People just aren’t that bothered. People just aren’t that bothered. EPA/Olivier Hoslet

What does the public really think about NATO?

World leaders are congregating in Wales this week for the 2014 NATO summit, where some of the most pressing political issues of the day will be on the agenda. Despite the high stakes, a survey of the general…
NATO Baltic air policing mission highlights rising tensions north of Ukraine. NATO Baltic air policing mission highlights rising tensions north of Ukraine. EPA

Russia’s borders: minorities and military manoeuvres rattle nerves in the Baltics

Anxiety over the crisis in eastern Ukraine has ratcheted in recent days amid claims of an effective Russian invasion, and warnings of NATO making a 4000-troop reaction force available to the region. As…
David Cameron and Anders Fogh Rasmussen have a plan. David Cameron and Anders Fogh Rasmussen have a plan. Luke MacGregor/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Explainer: what’s on the agenda at the NATO summit?

NATO member states are meeting this week in Wales at what could prove a milestone summit. Since the 2012 Chicago meeting, the security landscape has changed dramatically and important questions about NATO’s…
Yes…but is it war? Inspecting weapons seized in east Ukraine. Yes…but is it war? Inspecting weapons seized in east Ukraine. EPA/Tatyana Zenkovich

Explainer: when does a conflict become a war?

Is the conflict in Ukraine a war? This question has been raised in recent reports about a Russian invasion in Ukraine on the Caspian Sea. The USA and other NATO powers call it an “incursion”; the Baltic…
Maria Alyokhina (L) and Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot – part of a long Russian tradition. Maria Alyokhina (L) and Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot – part of a long Russian tradition. Michael Reynolds/EPA

Reviewing Pussy Riot’s aesthetic disobedience as Russian art

In the heart of Moscow, a group of young artists prepares to stage a new kind of artistic performance. They paint their faces and don flamboyant outfits of lurid colour. Their performance will be a march…
Ukrainian footage purportedly showing captured Russian soldiers. Ukrainian footage purportedly showing captured Russian soldiers. EPA

Further claims of Russian troop deployments follow capture of soldiers in Donetsk

The announcement by the Ukrainian government that a combined group of Ukrainian armed forces and Security Service personnel detained ten Russian paratroopers inside Donetsk in east Ukraine should perhaps…
Compensating their exporters. Compensating their exporters. EPA/Wolfgang Kumm

How the EU is handling Russia’s food import ban

The European Commission has announced emergency EU funding of €125m for fruit and vegetable growers hit by the ban imposed by Russia on imported Western food in retaliation for the West’s own sanctions…
Devastation: the remains of Donetsk’s history museum. Devastation: the remains of Donetsk’s history museum. EPA/Sergei Ilnitsky

Inside Donetsk, a city at war, while the jaw-jaw over Ukraine continues

The past few days have seen another round of the seemingly endless cycle of escalation and de-escalation that has characterised the crisis in Ukraine for several months. The Ukrainian government has claimed…
The Amur tiger, like its cousin the Amur leopard, is among the world’s rarest cats. The Amur tiger, like its cousin the Amur leopard, is among the world’s rarest cats. Appaloosa

Zoos have a vital role to play in ensuring survival of Amur tiger

The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. altaica), also known as the Siberian Tiger, is among the world’s rarest and most endangered cat species. The largest and northernmost tiger, it is believed only around…
Australia’s dairy sector will lose out due to Russian sanctions, but there are bigger issues in play. Australia’s dairy sector will lose out due to Russian sanctions, but there are bigger issues in play. Anatoly Maltsev/AAP

Russian sanctions are the least of our agriculture sector’s problems

Russia’s targeting of $A400 million of Australian food exports and the government’s muddled response are just the latest setback for a sector struggling under failed policy approaches. Agriculture is Australia’s…
No more Spanish strawberries? Excellent news for this lady. No more Spanish strawberries? Excellent news for this lady. Sparkle Glowplug

Why farmers in Belarus will profit under Putin’s sanctions

Increasingly the saga of East-West economic relations is developing independently of the actual conflict in Ukraine and the surrounding region, leading to various unexpected outcomes. Take Russia’s own…
Australia’s trade relationship with Russia looked better in 2007. Australia’s trade relationship with Russia looked better in 2007. Dean Lewins/AAP

Tough talk but little to lose on Russian trade sanctions

Poke a Russian bear with a stick and he will retaliate. That’s the lesson facing Australian exporters today. When Australia announced it would join the United States and Europe in placing trade sanctions…
Pavel Gubarev: self-proclaimed ‘People’s Governor’ of Donetsk region. Pavel Gubarev: self-proclaimed ‘People’s Governor’ of Donetsk region. EPA/Photomig

Self-styled people’s governor of Donetsk tells us: these areas have always been Russian

There are two competing and irreconcilable narratives about the crisis in eastern Ukraine that divide public opinion and media coverage in the region and the country – as much as they divide Russia and…
Urgent business: the UN Security Council discusses Gaza and the downing of flight MH17. Urgent business: the UN Security Council discusses Gaza and the downing of flight MH17. EPA/Jason Szenes

Hard Evidence: who uses veto in the UN Security Council most often – and for what?

On Thursday July 17, 298 people lost their lives when Flight MH17 was downed in eastern Ukraine. Almost immediately accusations were made that the aircraft had been shot down by pro-Russian separatists…
Isolated by sanctions - but does Putin care? Isolated by sanctions - but does Putin care? EPA/Mikhail Klimentyev/Ria Novosti

Explainer: how will sanctions against Russia work?

The sanctions against Russia just announced by the EU and the US are widely reported to be the harshest since the end of the Cold War. The package includes cutting off Russia’s state-owned banks from international…
Built in France for Russia – the Mistral class warship. Built in France for Russia – the Mistral class warship. EPA/Franck Dubray/Ouest France

Who wants to buy a couple of warships from France to stop Russia getting them?

When it comes to politics, there is a generally held belief that when it is working, it is boring. Europe’s foreign policy politics routinely breaks this axiom because while it can rarely said to be working…
This piece of fuselage might hold vital clues about the downing of MH17. This piece of fuselage might hold vital clues about the downing of MH17. EPA/Robert Ghement

What this photograph might tell investigators about what really happened to MH17

Much has been made of the possibility that the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was the work of an anti-aircraft missile. Even without confirmation or corroboration, investigators will have a wealth…
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Mikhail Metzel/Ria Novosti/EPA/Kremlin Pool

MH17 tragedy shows the risks of the new Great Game

Since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held Ukraine, there has been much finger-pointing between Russia, pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government. While the UK and US…
A separatist soldier hands an MH17 black box to a Malaysian delegation. A separatist soldier hands an MH17 black box to a Malaysian delegation. EPA/Robert Ghement

Explainer: what will MH17’s black boxes reveal?

The news that the black boxes from Malaysia Airlines flight M17 has been handed over to Malaysian authorities, will lead to many questions about what information they have to offer. The two recorders have…
A train carrying the remains of crash victims is guarded by pro-Russian separatists. A train carrying the remains of crash victims is guarded by pro-Russian separatists. EPA/Robert Ghement

Russia must co-operate with investigation of MH17 or risk wearing the blame

US Secretary of State John Kerry has left the rest of the world in no doubt as to who America blames for the downing of MH17, appearing on several Sunday talkshows to point the finger at pro-Russian separatists…
A challenge for EU and Ukraine relations. A challenge for EU and Ukraine relations. Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

After MH17, the EU must act against Putin and stop importing Russian gas

Writing from Kiev, the city is boiling with rage. And now all Europeans too may boil with rage as 189 Dutch and smaller numbers of Belgians, British, French and Germans perished, when their Malaysian Airlines…
Power broker. Vladimir Putin. Power broker. Vladimir Putin. Fernando Bizerra Jr/EPA

MH17 was a victim of the new cold war’s first proxy conflict

It remains to be seen precisely how and why the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed over the territory of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. But whatever…
Show of hands: the UN Security Council. Show of hands: the UN Security Council. EPA/Justin Lane

Explainer: international law and flight MH17

As the events surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine become clearer, more and more voices are claiming the plane may have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists in eastern…
Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Arilines flight MH17, which crashed over the eastern Ukraine. Debris of the Boeing 777, Malaysia Arilines flight MH17, which crashed over the eastern Ukraine. EPA

Black box scuffle could mask the truth about flight MH17

Normally, when a crashed aircraft’s black box is recovered, it can reveal exactly what happened to cause the disaster but in the case of MH17, the political instability between Ukraine and Russia could…
Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have successfully defied the government in Kiev, but will have gravely harmed their cause if they brought down flight MH17. Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have successfully defied the government in Kiev, but will have gravely harmed their cause if they brought down flight MH17. EPA

Q&A: Flight MH17 and the spiralling conflict in Ukraine

The shooting down of flight MH17 has thrust the separatist conflict in Ukraine back into the international spotlight. The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels have been locked in a military and…
Ukrainian separatist rebels under the banner of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ are reportedly responsible for shooting down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian separatist rebels under the banner of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ are reportedly responsible for shooting down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. EPA/Stringer

Ukrainian rebels gain firepower but may have blown their cause

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine represents considerable escalation of the military capabilities of the insurgency based around the “Donetsk People’s Republic”. Although…
Installations of the main natural gas pipeline in the Boyarka village near Kiev. Installations of the main natural gas pipeline in the Boyarka village near Kiev. Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Russia’s game of chicken with Ukraine leaves Europe on the edge

As with the previous Russia-Ukraine gas disputes in 2006 and 2009, how we describe the current stand-off between the two countries is a matter of semantics. Those earlier disputes found solutions based…
Shake? Please? NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (l) visits Romania. Shake? Please? NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (l) visits Romania. EPA/Robert Ghement

Ukraine gives NATO a reason to exist – but big players demur

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), once again saved from potential irrelevance, has come to the fore in the West’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis. In the aftermath of its withdrawal from Afghanistan…
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and CNPC Chairman Zhou Jiping sign documents as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping look on. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and CNPC Chairman Zhou Jiping sign documents as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping look on. Alexey Druginyn/Ria Novosti/AAP

Australian LNG in the shadow of a global gas showdown

The US$400 billion gas deal signed between Russia’s giant state-owned corporation Gazprom and China last week is 16 times larger than its predessor in the supply of gas to China - a US$25 billion LNG project…
Petro Poroshenko has won a clear first-round victory in Ukraine’s presidential election. Petro Poroshenko has won a clear first-round victory in Ukraine’s presidential election. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

‘Chocolate King’ Poroshenko wins Ukraine presidency but violence continues

With the outright victory of Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s presidential elections on May 25 now confirmed, hopes are running high for a new beginning that will deliver a swift way out of a protracted crisis…
Who’s going to wage war with China over a rock in the ocean? That is why Beijing feels confident in claiming and building on this disputed reef in the South China Sea. Who’s going to wage war with China over a rock in the ocean? That is why Beijing feels confident in claiming and building on this disputed reef in the South China Sea. EPA

Ukraine crisis offers lessons in how to handle China’s ambitions

Since the end of the Cold War it has become accepted knowledge that economic ties between the major powers prevent conflict. In a world of globalised production chains and capital flows the general argument…
Just not that simple, really. Just not that simple, really. EPA/Maxim Shipenkov

Ukraine referendums: another attempt to rewrite ethnic history

The referendums on independence from Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk, defying Putin’s call to postpone, pose deep questions about what “independence” would actually mean – and whether it can actually be…
Russia steps back - but it’s too late for this family. Russia steps back - but it’s too late for this family. EPA/Roman Pilipey

Russia’s nationalist quest risks future of European borders

Vladimir Putin has called for the postponement of the planned referendum in eastern Ukraine just four days before the vastly pro-Russian provinces were due to vote on secession. The Russian president also…
Perhaps the Quad can do a better job. Perhaps the Quad can do a better job. streetwrk.com

How the EU could help save Ukraine at the eleventh hour

Ukraine is disintegrating before our eyes, with escalating anarchy, civil war and proxy war with Russia, and dozens killed in Odessa on Friday. Acting President Alexander Turchinov officially declared…
Power games unmasked. Pro-Russian protesters gather outside the seized City Hall in in Mariupol, Ukraine. Power games unmasked. Pro-Russian protesters gather outside the seized City Hall in in Mariupol, Ukraine. Anastasia Vlasova

Ukraine clashes raise stakes in struggle to control the Donbas

It is the most serious conflagration since armed pro-Russian forces began taking control of official buildings in the Donbas. At least one anti-government protester is believed to have been shot dead by…
Assembling the Nord Stream in 2011. Assembling the Nord Stream in 2011. Bair175

Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are tied by gas dependency

The German energy giant RWE has begun to “reverse flow” supplies of gas from Europe back to Ukraine via Poland, a process first arranged in 2012, with an agreement to deliver up to 10 billion cubic metres…
The hanging of Masha. Bruskina on October 26 1941 was the first of the Nazis' many public executions in occupied Russia. The hanging of Masha. Bruskina on October 26 1941 was the first of the Nazis' many public executions in occupied Russia. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/masha.html

Academics and ‘barbarians’: why one article aroused Russian ire

It’s not easy for Australians to become famous in Russia. It would seem harder still to become a figure of loathing in Russian print and online media. But Associate Professor Timothy Lynch, who teaches…
On the edge. Pro-Russian protesters clash with police in Donetsk. On the edge. Pro-Russian protesters clash with police in Donetsk. EPA?Roman Pilipey

Ukrainian troops fight to fill east’s dangerous power vacuum

Kiev is fighting to regain control over the eastern region of Ukraine, with troops acting to take back occupied buildings across the Donetsk region. The occupation of government buildings in cities over…
Eastern Europe relies on the network of gas pipelines that runs from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus. Eastern Europe relies on the network of gas pipelines that runs from Russia through Ukraine and Belarus. EPA/Eustream/AAP

Will the Ukraine crisis open up a new gas market for Australia?

The ongoing standoff between Russia and Ukraine has exacerbated Europe’s vulnerability caused by its reliance on Russian gas. The situation has locked the two nations into a dispute over paying for gas…
One people, one voice: Putin takes to the airwaves. One people, one voice: Putin takes to the airwaves. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

One nation, one voice: press control and propaganda in Putin’s Russia

Even as speculation continues about whether Russia’s recent foreign policy behaviour will result in a return to conflict in Europe, a war of words is already ongoing in Russia itself and it is one that…
Baroness Ashton with the foreign ministers of Sweden, Germany and Croatia. Baroness Ashton with the foreign ministers of Sweden, Germany and Croatia. EPA/Simela Pantzartzi

EU should speak with a single voice on Ukraine crisis – but that’s not going to happen

Europe’s neighbourhood is in flames. To the south, the optimism provoked by the Arab spring quickly gave way to concern about successor regimes. To the east, all eyes are on Ukraine as some 40,000 Russian…
Putin talks; Gazprom’s CEO listens. Putin talks; Gazprom’s CEO listens. EPA

Gazprom may yet be a victim of Putin’s Ukraine policy

Gazprom’s decision to hike the price of the gas it sells to Ukraine came as no surprise as it was flagged more than a month ago. At that time the company’s website showed the Russian prime minister, Dmitry…
The protector of “Russians” (wherever they are). The protector of “Russians” (wherever they are). Kremlin.ru

How Vladimir Putin has changed the meaning of ‘Russian’

The crisis between Russia and Ukraine reveals how dramatically Vladimir Putin’s nationalism has changed over the past 14 years. After he came to power in 2000, Putin preferred to refer to people in Russia…
Outside the occupied government building in Donetsk. Outside the occupied government building in Donetsk. EPA/Photomig

Ukraine veers closer to collapse as activists in Donetsk proclaim ‘people’s republic’

Ukraine appears to be heading towards another crisis. Protests in the eastern cities of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk have turned violent and pro-Russian protesters occupied government buildings, calling…
Time to point the finger. Viktor Yanukovych speaking with reporters during a press conference in Kiev. Time to point the finger. Viktor Yanukovych speaking with reporters during a press conference in Kiev. Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

The seven grave mistakes that prompted the Ukraine crisis

The situation in Ukraine remains tense, yet the odds are that it will now stabilise. It is unlikely Russia will invade eastern Ukraine, both because it is unclear whether this was in the plans (if such…
Wheels in motion. EU seeks out sanctions in response to Ukraine crisis. Wheels in motion. EU seeks out sanctions in response to Ukraine crisis. Robert Ghement

Soak the oligarchs – a robust alternative for EU sanctions against Russia

The current stand-off between Russia and Ukraine has left the European Union looking perhaps flatfooted and ineffectual. It is an unfair reflection of reality. The EU is not a military alliance and so…
Ukraine got rid of its nuclear weapons in 1994. Ukraine got rid of its nuclear weapons in 1994. EPA/Stringer

Ukraine nuclear security fears were exaggerated

As the curtain fell on the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the Dutch organisers must surely have experienced mixed emotions: relief that the summit was a success, yet frustration that media attention was…
Kerry and Lavrov keep talking. Kerry and Lavrov keep talking. EPA/Martial Trezzini

Can the US and Russia talk their way out of crisis in Ukraine?

Talks between US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Paris, followed after a week of high-level diplomacy, including a phone call between presidents Obama and Putin…
Comprehensive sanctions on Iraq started the modern debate on targeted measures. Comprehensive sanctions on Iraq started the modern debate on targeted measures. Adrian Dennis/EPA

Explainer: do sanctions work?

There seems to be a near-consensus that the West must “do something” to prevent instability in Ukraine and Russia’s other neighbours. But should that something include wider sanctions, targeting not just…
Strong words don’t mean strong measures. Strong words don’t mean strong measures. EPA/Olivier Hoslet

West opted for Russia sanctions due to lack of any other policy

The invasion of Crimea and Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s Eastern borders have set a difficult task for Western diplomacy. Since Russia is a nuclear power, despite being militarily diminutive…
A poster in Kiev’s Independence Square voices fears of another war between Ukrainians and Russians. A poster in Kiev’s Independence Square voices fears of another war between Ukrainians and Russians. EPA/Robert Ghement

Ukraine’s ‘forgotten history’ sowed seeds of bitter division

World War Two didn’t end in Ukraine in 1945. After the devastation of German occupation, which left the country in ruins and millions dead, Ukrainian nationalists continued to murder thousands of Jews…
Hell and high water: a German anti-piracy ship returns from an African tour. Hell and high water: a German anti-piracy ship returns from an African tour. Ingo Wagner/EPA

Stopping West African piracy is vital for Europe’s energy security

The Crimea crisis has focused our attention on the vexed question of Europe’s energy supplies. To a great extent Europe depends on Russia for its oil and gas, which gives Vladimir Putin disproportionate…
On message: a pro-Russian newspaper in Simferopol, Crimea. On message: a pro-Russian newspaper in Simferopol, Crimea. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Ukraine, Kremlin propaganda and the Cold War trap

Facebook can be a confusing place. For the follower of Ukrainian and Russian politics the messages could not be more different. At the same time that “Euromaidan PR” is posting pictures of “Putler” and…
Russia’s economy is more rusty than people realise. Russia’s economy is more rusty than people realise. Johan Viirok

Crimea exposes Russia’s neglected economic base

No amount of international sanctions will reverse Russia’s takeover of Crimea. But unless Vladimir Putin can now extend his influence over eastern Ukraine, the incomplete triumph could undermine him. If…
Too close for comfort? Narva Bridge on Estonia’s Russian border Too close for comfort? Narva Bridge on Estonia’s Russian border Hannu

The tiny Estonian town that could spell the end of NATO

The Russian invasion and rapid absorption of the Crimean peninsula might seem like the spark ready to ignite a new Cold War. In fact, given the feeble Western response so far, the more likely outcome is…
Standing guard. Police at the Regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine. Standing guard. Police at the Regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine. PHOTOMIG/EPA

Crimea is lost, now Ukraine’s future depends on a delicate power game in the East

Now that Ukraine has lost Crimea, which seems certain to be reunited with the Russian Federation, the future of the remainder of the country depends on what happens in the urban, industrial and populous…
Triumph or charade: pro-Russian supporters celebrate in Simferopol. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov. Triumph or charade: pro-Russian supporters celebrate in Simferopol. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov.

Crimea votes to secede from Ukraine as EU considers sanctions against Russia

Crimeans have voted by a huge margin to secede from Ukraine. According to early reports released after 50% of the ballots had been counted more than 95% of votes were in favour of joining Russia. EU foreign…
Crimean referendum campaign posters in Sevastopol. Crimean referendum campaign posters in Sevastopol. EPA/Zurab Kurtsikidze

Ukraine crisis: Crimea is to all intents and purposes Russian

The Crimean crisis is sliding from bad to worse, not least for the inhabitants of what until a month ago was an idyllic peninsula waiting for the glory of springtime. As the ultra-right and neo-Nazi thuggery…
In post-Soviet Russia, orange and black are the new black. In post-Soviet Russia, orange and black are the new black. RIA Novosti

World War II symbolism runs deep in Ukraine-Russia standoff

Many of the images of pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine, from Crimea to Donetsk, have shown them wearing black-and-orange-striped ribbons. The symbolism here is opaque to most Western observers, it…
Russia keeps its secrets under its hat, but cyber war’s nothing new. Russia keeps its secrets under its hat, but cyber war’s nothing new. San Diego Shooter/Flickr

Cyber war in Ukraine – business as usual for the Russian bear

In a war – declared or otherwise – bravery and perseverance are not enough. Communications are important. Effectiveness means being able to command your troops and gather information. It also means being…
For the future of Crimea: pro-Russia supporters rally. For the future of Crimea: pro-Russia supporters rally. EPA/Artur Shvarts

Explainer: how can Crimea legally secede from Ukraine?

We believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow…
Many screens - one voice. Many screens - one voice. EPA/Sergei Ilnitsky

Resignations shine unwelcome light on to Russia Today

For a TV network which wants to become a household name to millions around the world, Russia Today has certainly generated a lot of publicity in recent days as it broadcasts about the political crisis…
The war at home: a rally in Moscow for the people of Crimea. The war at home: a rally in Moscow for the people of Crimea. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Russia fuels Ukrainian crisis with disingenuous diaspora politics

The incursion into Ukraine by Russian forces, ostensibly in the name of “protecting” the Russian population of Crimea from harassment and violence at the hands of ethnic Ukrainians, is a classic case of…
Vladimir Putin, Dimitry Medvedev and sports minister Vitaly Mutko oozing cool in Sochi. Vladimir Putin, Dimitry Medvedev and sports minister Vitaly Mutko oozing cool in Sochi. EPA/Mikhail Klimentiev/Ria Novosti

Russian confidence dealt a blow by Sochi Paralympics boycotts

The founding fathers of the Paralympics must be turning in their graves. The Sochi Paralympics is the latest in a long list of sporting events to be marred by politics. The 1980 Olympics in the then USSR…
Ukrainian far-right protesters commemorate the creation of the Ukrainian division of the SS in Lviv in 2011. Ukrainian far-right protesters commemorate the creation of the Ukrainian division of the SS in Lviv in 2011. EPA/Markiian Lyseiko

Far-right party jeopardises Ukraine’s path to democracy

Following days of protest and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s new interim government was announced on 26 February 2014. This is not an ordinary government. Politicians linked to the…
Command and control: Vladimir Putin is calling the shots. Command and control: Vladimir Putin is calling the shots. EPA/Alexey Druzhinyn/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool

On Ukraine, Putin has outfoxed the West at every turn

As talks stall between US and Russia in the ongoing crisis over Ukraine, Russia – written off by so many just two weeks ago as “humiliated” and “at a loss” – now appears to be in control of the situation…
Demonstrators in downtown Donetsk. Demonstrators in downtown Donetsk. EPA/Photomig

Eyewitness: Russia and Ukraine supporters face off in Donetsk

A tense evening in Donetsk. Around 1,000 pro-Russian supporters gathered in front of the building which houses both the regional state administration and the regional council late on Wednesday afternoon…
There’s lots of talk, but little walk. There’s lots of talk, but little walk. neiljs

How can Ukraine, Crimea and Russia secure a stable future?

The situation in Ukraine is still highly volatile, especially in relation to Crimea and continuing uncertainty about Russia’s intentions. But there is a need to consider what a longer-term solution might…
Barriers erected and loyalties made clear. Barriers erected and loyalties made clear. Anton Pedko/EPA

Crimea: the polarised peninsula threatening to rip Ukraine apart

These are dangerous times in Crimea. While the ongoing crisis in Ukraine has exposed the division between the country’s pro-Western and pro-Russian populations, another divide is more clear-cut and arguably…
A nod to the failed opening of the fifth ring in the opening ceremony featured in the closing ceremony … but the underlying cultural aspects are fascinating. A nod to the failed opening of the fifth ring in the opening ceremony featured in the closing ceremony … but the underlying cultural aspects are fascinating. ifindkarma/Flickr (cropped)

Sochi’s closing ceremony: the art, the circus and the spectacle

Tasked with winding down the over-exuberance of the build-up, Olympics closing ceremonies always have an anti-climactic tone. Terrorists from the Caucasus failed to disrupt the Sochi event, and the most…
With the world’s eyes on Russia, anti-gay sentiment hasn’t alleviated. With the world’s eyes on Russia, anti-gay sentiment hasn’t alleviated. Flickr/jantangerine

A gay old time? Social media lessons from Russia

As the Winter Olympics in Sochi draw to a close, a brief survey of trending topics across social media and international press reveal some entertaining and frightening contradictions on the slippery slopes…
A protester plays the piano atop a burned-out bus in Kiev. A protester plays the piano atop a burned-out bus in Kiev. Ввласенко

How could the EU do more for Ukraine?

When in Kiev recently I asked many Ukrainians how they thought the raging political and now violent conflict would end. All said they had no idea, but one of them said he had eight scenarios, which included…
After destroying towns and cities, Syria’s civil war is spilling into Lebanon. After destroying towns and cities, Syria’s civil war is spilling into Lebanon. Christiaan Triebert

No end in sight as Syria misery spreads across region

The second round of the Geneva II talks on Syria have ended with no agreement and without even a decision on the date of a further meeting. The highly experienced UN mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, was clearly…
Glimpses of horror: while the West watches, Syria burns. Glimpses of horror: while the West watches, Syria burns. SIcco2007

Syrians suffer as world plays politics with humanitarian aid

The humanitarian crisis in Syria is no longer news. It is simple fact: tragedy writ large, as cities burn and lives are ruined. Our eyes may widen at the sheer scale of this destruction: four million people…
The lesser known ‘faces’ of Pussy Riot. The lesser known ‘faces’ of Pussy Riot. Igor Mukhin at ru.wikipedia

Pussy Riot arrest at Sochi reinforces their cult status

It wasn’t long between spells in jail for two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were briefly arrested at the Sochi Olympics, having only been released…
Sochi as a media spectacle has epitomised Vladimir Putin’s aspirations for his Russia. Sochi as a media spectacle has epitomised Vladimir Putin’s aspirations for his Russia. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov

Sochi on screen: how Russia is being sold to Russians

All modern Olympics employ directors who stage-manage the huge spectacle of the Games – and Sochi 2014 is no different. So what does this stage management tell us, internationally, and what is it intended…
Illegal dumping in the Mzymta River from Sochi’s building frenzy. Illegal dumping in the Mzymta River from Sochi’s building frenzy. sochiwatch

Sochi Olympics have left a trail of environmental destruction

The reports from Sochi’s newly built hotels and Olympic Village have not painted their construction in the best light, with tales of doors that wouldn’t open, yellow drinking water, and collapsing fixtures…
Krasnaya Polanya, the site of the Sochi 2014 games, has long been a haunt of Russian artists and intellectuals. Krasnaya Polanya, the site of the Sochi 2014 games, has long been a haunt of Russian artists and intellectuals. EPA/Michael Kappeler

Writing the Caucasus: Sochi and Russia’s literary retreats

Sochi – currently hosting the Winter Olympics – looks like the beach resort it is, situated on the blue waters of the east coast of the Black Sea, and enjoying a sub-tropical climate. There is what looks…
The pomp and glamour of the Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony didn’t quite project an accurate version of Russian history. The pomp and glamour of the Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony didn’t quite project an accurate version of Russian history. Flickr/Kristy Yang Photography

Looking through the spectacle, Olympic opening ceremonies can rewrite history

The role of an Olympic opening ceremony is twofold – it is a place to show off to the world and it is a place to converse with your own citizens. So what did the grand opening ceremony to the Sochi Winter…
Faster, Higher, Stronger … Safer? Faster, Higher, Stronger … Safer?

Keeping Sochi secure is Putin’s most serious challenge

One thing dominates the Sochi Olympics as nothing else: the towering summits of the Caucasus mountains. To begin with, it may strike a first-time visitor as strange that this seaside resort is to host…
BFFs: IOC President Thomas Bach and Vladimir Putin. BFFs: IOC President Thomas Bach and Vladimir Putin. David Goldman/AP

Russia and the IOC are the perfect match

Nationalism is the main event at any Olympic Games, and the Olympic industry relies on the goosebumps effects of the sporting spectacle to divert public attention from its less attractive underbelly, in…
If this can be a winter wonderland, freedom of speech can exist in Russia. If this can be a winter wonderland, freedom of speech can exist in Russia. Ganoshenko Roman

Press freedom at Sochi is more than a distant Olympic dream

Yes, there they were: palm trees in the place where a country known for its cruelly cold winters was planning to hold the Winter Olympics. What a treat it was to feel the mild air of the Black Sea coast…
This ‘skating palace’ was a snip at $98m. This ‘skating palace’ was a snip at $98m. Atos International

Olympic-style mega-events reach new frontiers, at a cost

There is a tendency – almost a law of nature – that governs the way the costs of large-scale international events such as the football World Cup and Olympic Games far outstrip the initial forecasts of…
From orange to blue and yellow: Ukraine’s protesters fly the EU flag front and centre. From orange to blue and yellow: Ukraine’s protesters fly the EU flag front and centre. AP

Ukraine’s opposition needs help from Europe’s 89 generation

I will never forget the 12 hours I spent in the Ukrainian women’s prison in Kharkiv. Never in my life have I seen such misery or degrading treatment of prisoners, Nor will I forget my brief conversation…
The president will not be taking questions. The president will not be taking questions. Matt Dunham/PA

Putin takes a hard line on soft power with new broadcaster

Vladimir Putin has drastically restructured Russia’s leading state-owned news agency, RIA Novosti, into a new institution, Russia Today, with the aim of promoting the national image worldwide. Head of…
This Russian-built nuclear power plant in India may be one of many soon appearing in developing countries. This Russian-built nuclear power plant in India may be one of many soon appearing in developing countries. Rafiq Maqbool/AP

Nations' nuclear ambitions not discouraged by few suppliers

UN inspectors descend on Iran this week to visit the Arak heavy water plant, and engineers at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan attempt one of the most challenging nuclear salvage operations…
Vlad the impaled. Vlad the impaled. Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Goodbye Lenin? Ukraine has been wondering for 20 years

That late summer day, the crowds were joyful. They cheered as the flag they had come to loathe was lowered. In its place, the blue and yellow colours of Ukraine rose above parliament. As the demonstrators…
If not you, then who? If not you, then who? mac_ivan

Dreams of a new Europe dashed in Ukraine

Mass protests in Ukraine have come one week shy of the 22nd anniversary of the USSR being signed into obsolescence. Ukrainians are protesting against a decision made by their government that will make…
All smiles in Geneva: but there are some unhappy people in the Middle East. All smiles in Geneva: but there are some unhappy people in the Middle East. Carolyn Kaster/AP/Press Association Images

Iran’s nuclear weapons deal will rebalance the Middle East

Signed by the P5 + Germany and mediated by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the deal achieved with Iran on the latter’s nuclear programme has important implications for regional…
Jaundiced view? Jaundiced view? Julien Behal/PA

Russia’s silence on climate change helps no one

Russia is the fourth largest producer of greenhouse gases, but has shown little initiative and remained quiet among the turmoil at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) climate summit in Warsaw. The hottest…
Syrian troops on patrol in Aleppo. Historically, what has the role of counterinsurgencies been in conflict zones? Syrian troops on patrol in Aleppo. Historically, what has the role of counterinsurgencies been in conflict zones? EPA/SANA

Sticks over carrots: the rationale of Assad’s counterinsurgency ‘madness’

The Syrian civil war is in its 31st month and shows few signs of abating. The death toll is now estimated at over 115,000, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Understanding this level…
Floating nuclear power station under construction. Floating nuclear power station under construction. Rosenergoatom

Russia’s floating nuclear plants to power remote Arctic regions

Though Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas, it is embarking on an ambitious and somewhat imaginative programme of building floating nuclear power stations. These are part of Russia’s…
‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. ‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. VOA

Syria peace talks will be fault line for post-US Middle East

Syrian rebels have dealt another blow to the prospects of a peace summit in Geneva in November. On Sunday, 22 of the armed groups fighting on the ground, including four of the most powerful, issued an…
Negotiations: Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry hammering out a deal on Syria. Negotiations: Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry hammering out a deal on Syria. US Department of State

Progress on Syrian WMDs but real test for UN lies ahead

The Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced it is sending a second team of weapons inspectors to Syria where, director-general Ahmet Üzümcü reports, destruction of al-Assad’s…
The not just cold, but troubled waters of the Russian Arctic. The not just cold, but troubled waters of the Russian Arctic. Will Rose/Greenpeace

Jailing Greenpeace activists will harden attitudes to Russia

Russia’s overreaction in prosecuting Greenpeace protesters, including the two journalists, is set to unfold into an international scandal that will seriously damage country’s global reputation. So far…
Recent revelations about the surveillance surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are distinctly Orwellian. Recent revelations about the surveillance surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are distinctly Orwellian. David Blackwell.

The Sochi Winter Olympics and the spectacle of surveillance

If you’re thinking about planning a trip to Russia for the Winter Olympic Games in February next year, prepare to have every aspect of your communications monitored under “the most invasive and systematic…
Russian authorities boarded and detained a Greenpeace vessel for charges of piracy. Russian authorities boarded and detained a Greenpeace vessel for charges of piracy. EPA/GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL

Greenpeace piracy charges mock international law

All 30 crew of Dutch Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, including an Australian, have been detained and charged with piracy by Russian authorities, after attempting to board an oil platform in the Arctic…
Who was in charge of selling tickets again? Who was in charge of selling tickets again? Bescker

Sochi scandals threaten a Russian sporting renaissance

With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games fewer than six months away, the last thing Russia needs is another scandal. But that is exactly what the organisers have got. The latest controversy involves migrants…
Hard to get rid of: the US still hasn’t destroyed its chemical weapons stockplie. Hard to get rid of: the US still hasn’t destroyed its chemical weapons stockplie. US government

Explainer: how will Syria’s chemical weapons be destroyed?

Bashar Assad’s decision to sign up Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) last week committed his country to verifiably give up the possession of chemical weapons and their production capabilities…
Best friends forever: Russia has always supported Syria, despite international pressure. Best friends forever: Russia has always supported Syria, despite international pressure. Freedom House

Fatal attraction: Russia’s flawed friendship with Syria

As UN inspectors finally began their search for evidence of chemical weapons being used in Syria, on Wednesday Damascus apparently suffered the worst attack of this kind yet in this conflict. Some reports…
Frosty: Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit this year. Frosty: Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit this year. Wikimedia Commons

Now is not the time to play at Cold War politics with Putin

Barack Obama has so far held firm against a growing chorus demanding that the US should boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi after Russia’s introduction of discriminatory laws banning gay “propaganda…
He has a point, you know. He has a point, you know. Anthony Devlin/PA

Academics should stand with Fry against anti-gay Russia

Stephen Fry’s viral open letter calling for “an absolute ban” on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over Russia’s controversial new anti-homosexuality laws was a clarion call for activists. But it should…
Oil on the water: Russian environmental problems are commonplace, but who’s watching? Oil on the water: Russian environmental problems are commonplace, but who’s watching? Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace

Russia’s crumbling environmental safeguards

The Russian state’s engagement with environmental concerns is complicated, carrying as it does a heavy legacy from Soviet times. From the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster (in what is Ukraine…
If oil spills in the forest and no one is around to see it, will anyone care? If oil spills in the forest and no one is around to see it, will anyone care? Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace

Few hear the cries of those fighting to save wild Russia

Lying to either side of the Urals, the Republic of Komi and Khanty-Mansiysk in the north of Russia are among the country’s most oil-rich regions. Scarcely populated, they provide a substantial share of…
The tug-of-war between the US, China and Russia over fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has increased diplomatic tensions between the three countries. The tug-of-war between the US, China and Russia over fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has increased diplomatic tensions between the three countries. EPA/Guardian/Glenn Greenwald

Edward Snowden’s flight shows the limits of US power

The flight of fugitive former NSA contractor and CIA employee Edward Snowden has captivated the international media, and starkly exposed the increasingly strained diplomatic relations between the United…
The deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems (pictured) to Syria has caused tensions to rise among Western powers. The deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems (pictured) to Syria has caused tensions to rise among Western powers. LuchezarS.

From ‘telegraph poles’ to Russian missiles: Syria’s air defence

As the civil war in Syria continues, several states are now decrying the potential deployment of the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. Described as a move to cool “hothead” pro-interventionists…
Cyprus is scrambling to find alternatives to avoid bankruptcy. Cyprus is scrambling to find alternatives to avoid bankruptcy. EPA/Filip Singer

Cyprus: moving from the Eurozone to a Russian sphere of influence

The desperation the Cypriot government finds itself in cannot be exaggerated. In the scheme of things, it seems small, but the nature of each Eurozone crisis is that the small problems are often the largest…
The bodies of people, including children, that anti-government activists claimed were killed by the Syrian Army in Houla. The bodies of people, including children, that anti-government activists claimed were killed by the Syrian Army in Houla.

Syria: is an international solution possible?

The appalling massacre of civilians, including children, in the town of Houla, near the Syrian city of Homs, was a senseless act beyond the unacceptable and ultimately self-defeating goal of crushing all…
Russia is no stranger to ambitious space exploration – and has produced several notable firsts. Russia is no stranger to ambitious space exploration – and has produced several notable firsts. Maxim Shipenkov/ EPA

Space Race reloaded: will Russia send cosmonauts to the moon?

For decades, the Soviet Union was a major player in the exploration of space, famously locking horns with the US in the “Space Race” – a competition for orbital supremacy and solar system exploration throughout…
After vote rigging in Russia’s elections, Putin’s authority has been called into question. After vote rigging in Russia’s elections, Putin’s authority has been called into question. EPA/Alexey Nikolsky/Ria Novosti/Government Press Service Pool

Is Putin’s leadership legitimate? A closer look at Russia’s elections

The Russian presidential elections, held on 4 March, gave a solid electoral win to the President-elect Vladimir Putin. But much of the Western press saw it as a tainted victory. With allegations of election…
Russians are angry, but there is no viable alternative to Putin yet. Russians are angry, but there is no viable alternative to Putin yet. EPA/Sergei Ilnitsky

Russia protests elections but Putin is safe … for now

The lead-up to the elections for the State Duma in Russia on December 4 gave no hint of the turmoil that was to follow. In the days after the voting, large numbers of Russians took to the streets in cities…
President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s close association with ruling party United Russia could be problematic. President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s close association with ruling party United Russia could be problematic. EPA/EKaterina Shtukina/Ria Novosti/Kremlin Pool Mandatory Credit

Russian Elections 2011: United Russia to hold on to power but could be slipping

This weekend nation-wide elections will select 450 deputies to the lower house of the Russian bicameral parliament, the State Duma. Although a win is likely for the ruling party, United Russia, lead by…

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