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KOMMERSANT
Kommersant ("The Businessman") was founded in 1989 as the first business newspaper in the Russia. Originally a weekly, Kommersant is now a daily newspaper with strong political and business coverage. It has been owned since 2006 by Alisher Usmanov, the director of a subsidiary of Gazprom.
A woman walks by empty shelves in a supermarket in Moscow.​
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Andrei Prakh

What Russians Fear The Most (And It's Not Escalation In Ukraine)

An annual report has revealed Russians' anxieties. This year, contracting COVID has been replaced by food shortages, inflation, and internet blackouts.

MOSCOW — A recent report has revealed what Russians fear most. Carried out by the CROS agency (Public Relations Development Agency), the report traces Russian citizens' primary concerns over the first three months of the so-called "special military operation".

High on the list were fears caused by the blocking of Western social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (now only available via VPN) or the departure of foreign brands from the Russian market. So too was the issue of food shortages, which has dominated the minds of Russians since February. The issue has become so prevalent that it may be called a “pseudophobia,” the study says.

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The findings mark a sharp change from those published in 2021, which ranged from fears of contracting COVID to having freedoms limited by Russia’s harsh imposition of QR codes for entry into public places.

Fears caused by inflation and the increase in the number of violent crimes also came up high.

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Photo of a woman looking out the window of a bus in Chisinau, Moldova
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Anna Akage

Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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Russia Watching NATO, As Path Cleared For Finland And Sweden To Join
In The News
Anna Akage, Shaun Lavelle, and Emma Albright

Russia Watching NATO, As Path Cleared For Finland And Sweden To Join

As NATO leaders meet in Madrid, Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. It's yet another momentous change underway since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A high-stakes NATO summit has kicked off in Madrid, as leaders of the world’s largest defense alliance discuss the war in Ukraine and key decisions that will shape the organization’s future direction. NATO Secretary-GeneralJens Stoltenberg said the Russian invasion of its neighbor had prompted a fundamental shift in its approach to defense.

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Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining the alliance after Turkey dropped its objections to their membership. The three countries released a joint memorandum that “extend[ed] their full support against threats to each other's security," FinnishPresident Sauli Niinistö said.

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The Fall Of Severodonetsk
In The News
Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

The Fall Of Severodonetsk

After weeks of raging battles, it appears Severodonetsk is set to fall under full control of Russian forces. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces will have to withdraw from the strategic city in southeastern Ukraine.

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The decision to retreat was made in order to save Ukrainian soldiers: “Nobody abandons our guys, nobody allows the encirclement (of our troops). The situation right now is as such that staying at these destroyed positions just for the sake of being there doesn't make sense,” Haidai said. At least 90% of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed.

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Vladimir Putin on Red Square.
Ideas
Cameron Manley

Peter The Great And Putin The What?

In the context of the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team have repeatedly made references to a glorious figure of Russian history: Peter the Great. But the current would-be tsar's selective memory tells us all we need to know.

-Analysis-

This past Thursday, Russians marked the 350th anniversary of tsar Peter the Great’s birth (June 9, 1672). Celebrations were held in his namesake city, St Petersburg, and the capital Moscow. As part of the celebrations, President Vladimir Putin attended a new exhibition in the capital dubbed "Peter the Great: The Birth of the Empire."

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Of course the exaltation of a leader best known for his Westernization and modernization ambitions is filled with terribly dark irony this year. Indeed, inspired by his time abroad, Peter I built St. Petersburg as Russia’s "window to Europe." Now, instead, Putin's invasion of Ukraine has slammed the door shut on Russia's rapport with the Continent — and indeed threatens to undo whatever progress Russia has made in recent years.

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Photo of storks in a field during harvesting in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine
Geopolitics
Ivan Yakunin

Yes, The War Has Caused A Major Food Crisis — But Russia Can't Fix It Alone

For many countries, the global food crisis has already begun. As enough food to feed the world for several weeks remains trapped in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey met to discuss the problem. But they cannot solve it alone, says independent Russian media Kommersant.

MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Ankara to talk to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu this week to discuss Ukrainian grain. Lavrov tried to strike an optimistic tone: "Our military is in contact with Turkish friends to discuss the details of these processes, these initiatives. There have never been any obstacles from our side to solve this problem... If the position of authorities in Kyiv has matured, we will only be happy to cooperate."

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Turkey has reported that the Ukrainian side is ready to clear mines from its harbors, which the Russians say has prevented exports, Russian state news agency Ria Novostireported.

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Angela Merkel Defends Her Handling Of Putin
In The News
Shaun Lavelle, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Angela Merkel Defends Her Handling Of Putin

In her first interview since the end of her 16 years as German Chancellor, Merkel said she had "nothing to apologize for." Asked why she had opposed plans for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. “Ukraine was not the country that we know now."

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her track record in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying she “has nothing to apologize for,” during her first public appearance since leaving office six months ago.

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In a public interview Tuesday night with Der Spiegel in Berlin, Merkel was asked about her government’s opposition of a U.S.-led plan for NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008. The Chancellor said she did not regret the decision. “Ukraine was not the country that we know now. It was a Ukraine that was very split” and “ruled by oligarchs at the time.”

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​Russian officer at St Petersburg's pre-trial detention facility
Geopolitics
Anna Akage

Ukrainian "Spies And Traitors" Dumped In Russia's Already Crowded Prison System

Russian jails were already struggling thanks to long investigations and an arrest bias. But the conflict in Ukraine has made a bad situation worse in detention centers around the country, with so-called Ukrainian "spies and traitors" locked up without trial.

MOSCOW — From 2006, since the middle of Vladimir Putin's second term in office, the hunt for traitors, spies, and enemies has enveloped the entire Russian Federation.

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From peaceful protesters to journalists, from human rights activists to foreigners suspected of espionage and terrorist activities, thousands of people are being held in detention centers where they spend weeks and sometimes months without charge or awaiting trial.

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