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Russia’s Fake Election Update (1)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Most interesting are the reports on the visit to Washington, DC, by Ksenia Sobchak – a very nice presentation at CSIS (well worth listening to), and a CNN interview, and a public (qualified) apology to Americans for Russian meddling. As a liberal pro-European member of Russia’s elites, she is representative of how many opposed to the Putin regime see the world, and the kind of Russia they would want to see. Her comments on Crimea were interesting to say the least, and revealing in terms of Russia’s national obsession with the ownership of Crimea.

Good AEI report on Putin, excellent Yakovenko and OSW essays. BBC explores the questionnaires given to Russian military AKA loyalty tests. Many interesting reports, especially on Navalniy, and some excellent OpEds by RFE/RL. Foreign Affairs essay on Putinomics explains the past political games with the Russian economy, but fails to thoroughly explore the future Russia confronts as its coffers are drained, its workforce shrinks, it economy decays, and its military and security expenses blow out.

Russia’s Post-Authoritarian Future: A Conversation with Russian Presidential Candidate Ksenia Sobchak | Center for Strategic and International Studies

Please join us for a conversation with Ksenia Sobchak, Candidate for President of the Russian Federation, on prospects and hopes for Russia’s post-authoritarian future. Dr. John J. Hamre, President and CEO of CSIS, will make introductory remarks. Following a presentation from Ms. Sobchak. Dr. Olga Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS, will moderate discussion. Check-in and registration will occur from 8:45 – 9:30 AM.

Russia’s Sobchak Brings Presidential Campaign To Washington

Ksenia Sobchak, the Russian TV celebrity, socialite, and daughter of President Vladimir Putin’s political mentor, brought her long-shot campaign for the presidency to Washington, saying that her po…

Sobchak Says Russian Election Meddling ‘Unacceptable’

Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak says it appears that Moscow meddled in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and called any such interference “unacceptable.”

On the Campaign Trail With a Former Russian Reality Star – Foreign Policy

When I arrived at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon to interview Ksenia Sobchak, there was a line of Russian journalists waiting to speak to her. Sobchak’s strategist, Vitali Shkliarov, came out of the room where she was taking brief interviews. The journalists were all gathered by the door, jockeying to be next, except for one who told me he knew Sobchak when she was a child and then went into the room without being called. Shkliarov asked how long I would need for an interview with Sobchak, a Russian presidential candidate. I asked for 40 minutes. She is very tired, he told me. Could I perhaps conduct the interview in the car? I said I could and took a seat. The childhood friend who went into the room advised me to follow his example and just barge in. I nodded but kept waiting. And so, shortly thereafter, I was ushered out of the National Press Building behind Sobchak and her team. Sobchak, dressed in a sharp red suit with her hair in an immaculate blonde bob, was stopped outside the building by a cameraman from TMZ, the celebrity news site. “You’re referred to as Russia’s Paris Hilton,” the cameraman said. “Big difference, though, from Paris. You’re running for president against Vladimir Putin. What inspired you to do that?” Without missing a beat, Sobchak replied in fluent English: “Well, first of all, I am a political journalist in Russia for more than 10 years.” The 36-year-old Sobchak, who once appeared on the cover of Russian Playboy and hosted a popular Russian reality TV show, didn’t like his characterization. “I don’t know who invented this about Paris Hilton, but really, it has nothing to do with me,” she said. Sobchak was not done lecturing the cameraman for TMZ, whose employees are known for confronting celebrities and politicians with incendiary questions intended to elicit colorful responses. “I mean, I’m a political figure in Russia for more than 10 years.… This is how people in Russia know me,” she continued. “They don’t know me like an entertainment star, which was 20 years ago.” (Sobchak, who began hosting the Russian reality show Dom-2 in 2004, left the program in 2012.)

Putin challenger apologizes for US election meddling – CNN

Ksenia Sobchak, who is challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin in March’s election, apologized for any Russian meddling in the US election in 2016.

Meet the Russian presidential candidate who’s not afraid to take on Putin – ABC News

A 36-year-old Russian socialite is challenging Vladimir Putin.

International referendum: Sobchak stirs confusion with latest idea on Crimea | UNIAN

International referendum: Sobchak stirs confusion with latest idea on Crimea. View news feed in world news for 07 February from UNIAN Information Agency

Vladimir Putin’s Wartime Presidency – AEI

So, is Vladimir Putin a khromaya utka (lame duck) on the way to retirement six years from now?

Podcast: Weird Scenes On The Campaign Trail

On this week’s Power Vertical Podcast, we look at the odd and peculiar world of that looming event the Kremlin calls an election. One opposition candidate for Russia’s presidency hits the campaign trail — in Washington. Another talks about taking a job as a Kremlin adviser — after the election. Yet another travels to London where he says he negotiated a deal to bring exiled Russian businessmen — and their money — back home. And one noncandidate who is very much a presence in the campaign releases a salacious video featuring an oligarch, a top official, a yacht — and an “escort worker” who calls herself “Nastya Rybka.”. Welcome to the odd and peculiar world of Russia’s so-called presidential election, which officially kicked off this week. On this week’s Power Vertical Podcast, we take a look at some of the weird scenes on the campaign trail, and what they signify. Joining me is veteran journalist and Kremlin-watcher Kiryl Sukhotski, executive editor for RFE/RL’s Russian-language television program Current Time. Enjoy….

Igor Yakovenko Blog: IMPERIAL MAN

How democrats, dissidents and human rights activists laid the foundation of Putin’s dictatorship During the last broadcast of “Dialogues on the Hedgehog” in which political scientist Georgy Satarov and journalist Alexander Ryklin argued about the problems of the Russian opposition, I suggested to Georgi Aleksandrovich as a mental experiment to return to 1993 when the Constitutional Council worked out a “presidential” draft of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and wondered whether the slightest chance to correct the imperial character of the basic law of our country. In particular, I was interested in the question of why the notorious formula “two terms in a row”, which today is confidently interpreted as an opportunity for the dictator’s lifelong rule, did not cause fear.

Putin for the fourth time. No vision, no hope | OSW

On 6 December Vladimir Putin announced that he will run in the presidential election to be held on 18 March 2018.

Elections, rallies, revolutions: about what the Ministry of Defense of Russia interrogates soldiers | BBC Russian Service

The Ministry of Defense of Russia at least in one military district distributes questionnaires to servicemen with questions about the attitude to “unauthorized charges of opposition” and readiness for “force resistance to persons calling for a force change of order,” the Russian BBC service found. This is the Southern Military District. The first one was that the Ministry of Defense was engaged there in search of dissenters among servicemen, a soldier from the Krasnodar Territory told Twitter in Twitter (he asked the BBC not to give his name). The serviceman published a questionnaire, compiled, judging by the “cap”, by the Main Directorate for Work with Personnel, as well as the Sociological Center of the Defense Ministry. The first 50 questions in the questionnaire are general political. They, according to the source of the BBC, answered all his colleagues. Among the questions were:

Eight Candidates To Run For President Of Russia

Eight candidates will be on the ballot in Russia’s March 18 presidential vote, a poll that appears certain to hand President Vladimir Putin a new six-year term.

The Daily Vertical: Listen To The Court Jester (Transcript)

OK, quick, who said the following? Power in Russia “has always been in the hands of the mafia, criminals, and the corrupt — from tsarist times until now.” Was it Aleksei Navalny? Or maybe Grigory Yavlinsky? Or Garry Kasparov? Nope. Nope. And nope. The comment was made months ago by Vladimir Zhirinovsky in a public appearance captured on video that is again making the rounds on social media as Russia’s election campaign gets under way. In the same appearance, Zhirinovsky said the clause in the Russian Constitution that says “all power derives from the people” is nonsense and anybody who believes it is “a fool.” Now, it’s easy to dismiss Zhirinovsky as a buffoon and a showman. But his role in Vladimir Putin’s regime is closer to that of a court jester who speaks truths that more respectable officials cannot. And who can dispute the truth of what he said here regarding the nature of power in Russia? It’s important to pay attention to what Russia’s court jester says during this election campaign as his words are often a signal of the Kremlin’s true and unvarnished thinking going forward. Back in March 2000, for example, shortly after Putin was first elected president, Zhirinovsky came out to speak to journalists gathered at the Central Election Commission. “It’s 30 minutes to the end of democracy,” he said, “and you’re all on the list.” At the time, everybody laughed. Nobody is laughing now.

The Daily Vertical: Making The Fake Appear Real (Transcript)

Pro-Kremlin media have been attacking Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin, whose poll numbers have been rising, according to pro-Kremlin pollsters. Kremlin-appointed Electoral Commission chief Ella Pamfilova has reprimanded Kremlin chief of staff Dmitry Peskov for statements that could be interpreted as illegally campaigning for Vladimir Putin. After submitting the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot, socialite and television presenter Ksenia Sobchak called for the legalization of marijuana in Russia. Yabloko leader and perennial presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky released his platform, which calls for an end to Russia’s “aggressive” war in Ukraine, an international conference on Crimea’s status, an end to Russia’s policy of violating the sovereignty of its neighbors, and the normalization of relations with the United States and the European Union. And Vladimir Putin says he’d work on a farm if he loses. If one didn’t know better, it would appear that an actual election was going on. If one didn’t know better, it would appear that Russians are debating the issues of the day in a consequential and competitive campaign. And that’s kind of the point. WATCH: Today’s Daily Vertical But we, of course, do know better. Russia’s election isn’t really an election. But it sure is playing one on TV. And all of these data points, collected over the past couple of weeks, are part of an elaborately staged show designed to make a coronation and a legitimization ritual take on the appearance of a competitive election. A fresh face appears and seems to surge in the polls. Putin’s mouthpiece gets a rare slap on the wrist from election officials. Nominally liberal opposition candidates take controversial stands. It’s all part of a ploy to make something fake appear to be real.

How can OSCE observe Russian ‘elections’ that are being illegally held in occupied Crimea? – Human Rights in Ukraine

There are several reasons why the event on March 18 which will give Vladimir Putin his fourth official term as Russian President can only loosely be termed ‘elections’. There is one, however, that surely invalidates any outcome since Russia is insisting on holding the elections in illegally occupied Ukrainian Crimea. –

Center Of Attention? Putin Stands Out On Official Ballot

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says even the design of the ballot papers for Russia’s upcoming presidential vote shows the election is rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin.

Russia’s Election Commission Registers Three More Presidential Candidates

Russia’s Central Election Commission has registered three more candidates for the March 18 presidential election, raising the total number of candidates to six.

The Daily Vertical: Questions Of Loyalty

What is your attitude toward opposition demonstrations? Would you be willing to use force against them? Which pro-Western politicians in Russia favor the overthrow of the regime? What is your attitude toward Aleksei Navalny, Aleksei Kudrin, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Ksenia Sobchak, and Grigory Yavlinsky? WATCH: Today’s Daily Vertical Do any of your colleagues speak out openly against Vladimir Putin? Now, these are just some of the questions included in a questionnaire that soldiers serving in Russia’s Southern Military District were recently required to fill out, according to a report this week in the BBC’s Russian Service. The questionnaire’s existence was first revealed last week on Navalny’s YouTube channel. It’s just the latest example that underneath the Putin regime’s bravado, there is fear. And behind its confidence, there is doubt. Because while the Kremlin can reasonably assume that it can secure the result it wants in the March 18 presidential election, the Kremlin clearly doesn’t appear so sanguine about what happens next. As Russia is entering an election season, the Kremlin feels the need to check, double-check, and verify the loyalty of the army. And it’s worth noting that the loyalty the Kremlin feels the need to confirm is not really loyalty to Russia’s constitution — which, after all, at least formally protects the right of citizens to demonstrate. It’s loyalty to Putin personally and to the current ruling elite. This is not a sign of a self-assured regime. On the contrary, it’s a sign of an entrenched ruling clique that is deeply frightened — and therefore quite dangerous.

Navalny Calls For ‘Anti-Idiocy’ Campaign Over ‘Nazi’ Photo Fine

Opposition activist Aleksei Navalny has called on backers to join an “anti-idiocy” campaign after a supporter was fined for publishing photo that graces Russian history books.

The Briefing: The Show Must Go On

A fresh face appears to surge in the polls. A Kremlin official receives a rare reprimand. Nominally liberal opposition candidates take some controversial stands. On this week’s Power Vertical Briefing, we take a look at some of the recent developments in Russia’s tightly choreographed presidential election and discuss what they portend about the Kremlin’s strategy as the campaign kicks off in earnest. Also on the briefing, we look at how the Winter Olympics are being viewed in Russia in light of the doping bans. Joining me is RFE/RL’s News Editor Steve Gutterman.

Russia 2018: Kremlin Countdown

A tip sheet on Russia’s March 18 presidential election. We’ll bring you our own news, videos, and analysis as well as links to what our Russia team is watching. Compiled by RFE/RL correspondents an…

Putin Formally Registered As Presidential Candidate

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been formally registered as a candidate in Russia’s March 18 presidential election.

The Morning Vertical, February 6, 2018

As Halya Coynash notes in a piece featured below, a little-discussed aspect of Russia’s March 18 presidential elections calls their very legitimacy into question. The fact that Russia is holding the elections in Crimea, which was illegally annexed and is internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory, Coynash writes, “invalidates any outcome.” Similar arguments were made following the September 2016 State Duma elections, which were also held in Crimea. Such claims, of course, do not appear to bother the Kremlin. Not only is it holding the election in Crimea, it is flaunting this fact by moving the date of the vote to March 18, the fourth anniversary of the annexation. In addition to being a legitimization ritual for Vladimir Putin’s regime, next month’s election are also part of a longer-term ritual that aims to legitimize the annexation of Crimea.

Navalny Summoned For Questioning, Accused Of Attacking Police

Investigators in Moscow have summoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for questioning over what they claim was an assault on the police officers who detained him at a rally late last month.

Russia Election: Putin Foe Alexei Navalny, Banned From Running, Keeps Pushing : Parallels : NPR

The popular 41-year-old lawyer is calling for a boycott of the March 18 presidential election, which he says is rigged. He says Putin’s regime is built on making Russians believe nothing can change.

The Deputy PM, The Oligarch, And His Lover: New Navalny Exposé Highlights Tycoon’s Ties To Kremlin Bigwig

A new exposé by anticorrupton campaigner Aleksei Navalny has highlighted a billionaire businessman’s ties to a Kremlin bigwig.

Sex, Lies, And Instagram: Russia’s ‘Rybkagate’ Rolls On

A Russian billionaire has warned of legal action after an exposé of his meeting with a senior government official on a yacht, while his alleged ex-lover at the center of the scandal has left polit…

Sex voyage on oligarch’s yacht: Top Russian official’s shady ties revealed with billionaire linked to Manafort – media | UNIAN

Sex voyage on oligarch’s yacht: Top Russian official’s shady ties revealed with billionaire linked to Manafort – media. The latest news from UNIAN for 09 February

The Surprising Success of Putinomics | Foreign Affairs

Today, Russia’s economy has stabilized, inflation is at historic lows, and the budget is nearly balanced. How did Vladimir Putin survive the twin challenges of the oil price crash and Western sanctions?

Ukraine in PACE to raise issue of illegitimacy of Russian elections in Crimea | UNIAN

Ukraine in PACE to raise issue of illegitimacy of Russian elections in Crimea. View news feed in news about politics for 07 February from UNIAN Information Agency