Week of Ceremonies Marks Wobbly Start for Putin’s New Presidential Term

The Christian Orthodox Easter service in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on May 5 began a week of pompous performances for Russian President Vladimir Putin (Vedomosti, May 5).

Cathedral of the Saviour, Moscow. Photo: Hans Nelemann / Getty Images

It continued with his inauguration ceremony on May 7, followed by a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Council (EEC) the next day and the Victory Day parade on Red Square on May 9.

The intention was to start the new presidential term, which was secured in a crudely manipulated election, with a patriotic bang.Read More

Pandemic Aftermath: Reflecting on the Value and Compensation of Essential Workers

After the first confirmation of a COVID case in Norway in late February 2020, the Norwegian government found itself in a difficult situation where the prevention of the virus was urgent, while the functioning of public institutions was necessary.

Stock photo from July 2020, by Tempura / Getty Images

Therefore, the Norwegian government categorized certain workers as especially important or critical to society (samfunnsviktige or samfunnskritiske, in English often referred to as ‘essential workers’) and asked them to continue working as normal, while others – in contrast – were asked to shelter at home and avoid public spaces as much as possible.Read More

War of Attrition Perturbs Putin’s Elites

Last week was full of shocks for Moscow. The United States finally approved $61 billion of aid to Ukraine, the European Parliament passed a resolution rejecting the legitimacy of Russia’s March presidential elections, and Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov was arrested in Moscow on accusations of bribery.

Timur Ivanov in court. Photo: Courts of General Jurisdiction of the City of Moscow via Telegram

The last event was the most astounding, as there have been practically no significant corruption cases in Russia since the war in Ukraine began (The Moscow Times, April 25).

Ivanov has been a prominent figure in Moscow’s high society and has ties to Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, and Sergei Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration (The Moscow Times, April 25). Ivanov was detained immediately after a session of the Defense Ministry Collegium, standing for his first court hearing in full uniform (Kommersant, April 24).Read More

Chasing a Mirage Amid a Famine

The recurring refrain that there is a route to a two-state solution diverts attention from what is truly urgent: ending the famine and securing a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, queue to receive food distributed by aid organizations in March 2024. Photo: Jehad Alshrafi/Anadolu via Getty Images

It is difficult to believe, but after more than 200 days of war, there is still no ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

According to the United Nations, approximately 1,500 Israelis and over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed. The Gaza Strip lies in ruins and starvation is widespread.Read More

The Black Sea Region Endures Beyond the Theater of War

Many strategic surprises have come from the combat operations on the Black Sea theatre in the last 25 months, and they keep coming as the long Russo-Ukrainian war continues to evolve, while the prospect of peace is barely visible through its fog.

Commercial maritime traffic in the Black Sea continues and even expands. Photo: Ukrinform/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In the domain of politics, one surprise is that the Black Sea region has not been completely transfigured into the theater of war, but endured, even if its key institution – the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) – barely functions in a few working groups and the Parliamentary Assembly.Read More

Multi-Prong Peace Offensive Pushes Putin Into Corner

Against all strategic rationale, Russian troops keep pushing Ukrainian defenses beyond Avdiivka and Bakhmut, paying a heavy price in casualties for every inch gained. The primary reason for these self-destructive attacks is to maintain the initiative necessary to prove Russia’s upper hand in the “long war.”

Putin finds it necessary to declare readiness to end the war, a point he mentioned last week at a meeting with Belarusian President and Putin ally Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Here are the two in St Petersburg in January. Photo: Contributor/Getty Images

This illusion of control gives Russian President Vladimir Putin the confidence to claim that all his original goals for the “special military operation” — amounting to the dismantling of Ukraine and innervation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — will be achieved.

Simultaneously, he finds it necessary to declare readiness to end the war, a point he mentioned last week at a meeting with Belarusian President and Putin ally Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Kommersant, April 12). Increased international calls for peace talks have painted the Kremlin leader into a corner as Moscow seems unable to provide effective solutions for quelling domestic strife and achieving victory in Ukraine.Read More

NATO’s New Activity Makes Russia Anxious and Angry

Every Russian stereotype about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been disproven by the alliance’s surge of activity in its 75th year.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib shake hands after cutting a commemorative cake during the alliance’s 75th anniversary celebrations at NATO Headquarters on April 04, 2024. Photo: Omar Havana/Getty Images

Moscow portrays NATO as an aggressive and indecisive institution, rigidly controlled by the United States, and disunited.Read More

The AI Dilemma: Can Artificial Images of War and Suffering Stir Empathy?

Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert explores the pitfalls and potentials of the use of AI to provide windows into humanitarian crises and human rights abuses.

From the photo exhibition launched by the Australian law firm Maurice Blackburn.

AI-generated images have already been used by charities and human rights organizations to illustrate mass suffering and abuse. A lot is potentially at stake as we become exposed to more of these types of images, including public trust in what is real, and ultimately our ability to engage.Read More

Terrorism Undercuts Putin’s Political Agenda

The shock from the March 22 terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall is continuing to generate angst and confusion throughout Russian society while failing to inspire unity.

In front of the Crocus City Hall the day after the terrorist attack at Crocus Concert Hall in Moscow on March 22, 2024. Photo: Sefa Karacan / Anadolu via Getty Images)

The Russian population may have grown accustomed to the perpetual shocks caused by the war in Ukraine, but the people are unprepared for the return of the specter of terrorism that loomed so large in the early 2000s.Read More

Post-“Election” Russia Sinks Deeper into War Quagmire

The official results from last week’s Russian presidential election were precisely what the Kremlin ordered, but they have hardly brought the incumbent Vladimir Putin much satisfaction.

Vladimir Putin meets with election campaign activists at Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on March 20,2024. (Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Falsifications in the results were so blatant that Putin’s desire to prove overwhelming public support for the continuation of his autocratic rule has remained unfulfilled. Instead of discipling the political elites, he may have inadvertently informed them about the limits of his control and the infirmness of his grasp on power (Meduza, March 20).

Despite extra-tight administration and security measures, several surprises have exposed fragilities in the seemingly solid system of Putin’s power.Read More