Anna Akage

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​Vladimir Putin at the military parade in Russia
Geopolitics

Greater Russia? Four Scenarios For Putin’s Expansionist Ambitions

A mind map of the Russian leader’s possible plans to increase his influence, and expand his territory.

Vladimir Putin has always had his eye on the neighborhood.

In Georgia, the border with Russia has effectively been controlled by Moscow’s FSB security services since 2008. Washington this week accused Russian agents of recruiting pro-Kremlin Ukrainian operatives to take over the government in Kyiv and cooperate with a Russian occupying force. Meanwhile, all of Belarus has been on a short leash for two decades.

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Photo of ​Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking with government members in November 2021
Geopolitics

​What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

In the year since the arrest of Vladimir Putin's last opponent a new Cold War has begun. In the absence of internal enemies, Russia's increasingly powerful yet isolated ruler must turn to external targets.

-Analysis-

One year ago this week, on Jan. 17, 2021, Vladimir Putin effectively disposed of his last viable domestic opponent when Alexei Navalny was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow.

Putin had long struggled with how to handle the firebrand anti-corruption lawyer and politician — and finally decided to eliminate him. Months before, in fact, Navalny was poisoned with the deadly biological weapon Novichok but miraculously survived. The surveillance and attempted murder were carried out by Russia’s FSB state security operatives, one of whom confessed to Navalny himself in a phone conversation.

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Photo of new President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (center)
Geopolitics

Kazakhstan: When One Strongman Replaces Another

Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has resulted in a new authoritarian leader finally assuming proper power in the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor.

The real transition of power in Kazakhstan was supposed to have taken place in 2019. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power.

However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country.

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"Worse Than Death" - A Message For Putin From A Reluctant Ukrainian Patriot
Ideas

"Worse Than Death" - A Message For Putin From A Reluctant Ukrainian Patriot

With Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine, the writer, who came of age in Kiev in the post-Soviet era, says her fellow Ukrainians of every generation are united in never again falling under the reign of Moscow.

"We survived the War, we can survive these maneuvers."

"The important thing is that there's no war."

"If there is a war, what if I am too tired to fight?"

These are phrases that I've heard in my daily life for as long as I can remember. There is no family in Ukraine that did not suffer from the 20th century's two world wars, Soviet revolutions and repressions and the Holodomor famine of the 1930s that killed millions. Flare-ups and worse with Russia over the past two decades spark immediate visceral reactions, sometimes overreactions, that come from history that never seems too far behind.

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What Is Really Driving Kazakhstan’s Explosion Of Violence
Geopolitics

What Is Really Driving Kazakhstan’s Explosion Of Violence

Rising fuel costs were the initial spark for rare public protests in Kazakhstan. But the violent unrest reveals widespread dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime that has ruled the country since its independence.

Less than a week into 2022, and It has already been a tumultuous — and deadly — year in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic. Initial protests over rising gasoline prices that began in the west of the country have spread to the largest city, Almaty, and turned violent, with government buildings set ablaze and Kazakh police opening fire on protesters. By Thursday morning, dozens of protesters and 12 police were dead, with one officer found beheaded.

It was an extraordinary explosion of violence over what was reported to be economic unrest. Yet in the oil-producing regime, which has been effectively run since its 1991 independence by strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, observers note that much deeper political, and geopolitical, questions are also at play. In the pre-dawn hours Thursday, the country’s prime minister Askar Mamin had resigned and Russia had dispatched paratroopers to the country.

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Netflix Stereotype? A Real Ukrainian In Paris Sets The Record Straight
Ideas

Netflix Stereotype? A Real Ukrainian In Paris Sets The Record Straight

Ukraine's culture minister has attempted to make a bonafide diplomatic incident out of the depiction of a character from Kyiv in the vapid Netflix series "Emily in Paris." A native Kyiv writer based in France is outraged too, but at her own country's false pride and a government minister wasting everyone's time.

-Essay-

PARIS — So Ukraine’s Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko has written a letter to Netflix, expressing the outrage that he and his fellow Ukrainians feel about the ugly stereotypes of a character from Kyiv who recently appeared in the Netflix series Emily in Paris. As a Ukrainian in Paris, I have a letter for Minister Tkachenko…

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​Why The Budding Xi-Putin Alliance Is Bound To Implode
Geopolitics

​Why The Budding Xi-Putin Alliance Is Bound To Implode

Joined in their respective confrontations with the West, both the Chinese and Russian leaders are boasting about their burgeoning partnership. Yet there are fundamental reasons the love affair is unlikely to last.

- Analysis -

“Building a peaceful and better world, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play…”

To that noble end, as stipulated by the Olympic Committee, the 24th Winter Games will be held in Beijing On February 4th.

Of course, these are no ordinary Olympics: as 20,000 Chinese volunteers are making preparations, there is growing momentum for a diplomatic boycott of the Games by Western leaders over China's record on human rights, with the White House having cited “ongoing genocide” as the main reason.

But as the West laments China’s abuses against ethnic minorities, its crackdown on Hong Kong and threats against Taiwan's independence, one political leader is nonetheless determined to attend in a spirit of friendship: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s participation in the opening ceremony was confirmed last week during a one-hour video meeting between the Russian leader the head of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping.

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Photo of former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and his wife Maryna at a rally in Kyiv on Aug. 24
Geopolitics

Ukraine Charges Its Former Leaders With The Ultimate Crime: Helping Russia

Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko has taken refuge in Poland after being accused of treason and cooperation with Russia. It’s a film we’ve seen before in Kyiv.

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Dmitry Muratov Awarded 2021 Nobel Peace Prize
Ideas

“Foreign Agent,” Putin’s Favorite Euphemism For Targeting Opponents

Russia is increasingly labeling journalists and human rights organizations as “foreign agents.” It’s the Kremlin’s latest – and most effective – way of cracking down on any kind of opposition.

The first thing to understand about those the Russian state calls “foreign agents” is that almost all of them are actually Russian. On top of that, most of these “agents” are either journalists or activists — or the media and human rights organizations they work for.

Foreign agent (иностранный агент - inostrannyi agent) is very much a loaded term and product of Vladimir Putin’s reign. It is a criminal designation bestowed on those whose activities are considered hostile to the state and have in some way received financing from abroad.

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Belarus: 18 Years For Tikhanovsky, Grim Prospects For Democracy
Geopolitics

Belarus: 18 Years For Tikhanovsky, Grim Prospects For Democracy

The jail sentence against the opposition leader is a clear sign that strongman Lukashenko is not looking back.

-Analysis-

Headlines in the West about this week’s sentencing of Sergei Tikhanovsky identified him as “husband of opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.” While it is of course true, the description is also wholly insufficient.

Indeed it is worth remembering who Tikhanovsky was — and is — now that a Belarusian court has sentenced him to 18 years of hard time in a prison colony.

Tikhanovsky was a popular blogger who’d gained a national following criticizing the government and sharing stories of the struggles of ordinary Belarusians, and had dared to announce his candidacy in the spring of 2020 to challenge longtime strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko in presidential elections.

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photo of a woman on a scooter near barbed wire at the border of Russia and Ukraine
Geopolitics

Waiting For Putin: Is Ukraine Caught In New Kind Of Cuban Missile Crisis?

Will there, or will there not be a Big War with Russia? Ukrainians try to gauge what happens next as tensions remain following the call between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

The two-hour conversation between the Presidents of the United States and Russia, to the surprise of virtually nobody, ended without any break in the tension. Both Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke in clear and plain terms during the talk Tuesday, over a secured video link, as Russian troops have amassed at the Ukrainian border and the world fears the growing risk of an invasion.

Putin insisted that NATO missiles in the region are a red line, while Biden threatened to cut Russia out of the international financial system if Russia invades Ukraine. Another phone call, this time from Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is planned for the end of this week.

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Photo of two men in traditional Tatar clothing and hats
Geopolitics

How Russia Targets Crimean Tatars, Long Oppressed Muslim Minority

Seven years after Moscow annexed Crimea, arrests and trials of Crimean Tatars are used as weapons to repress this ethnic minority that has already suffered for centuries.

Persecution of Crimean Tatars has a long history, but the latest chapter began in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea. And it continues to this day, in a systematic way that has largely gone unreported.

The ethnic Muslim minority of Turkic descent are indigenous to Crimea and today accounting for 13% of its population. Crimean Tatars had lived as Ukrainian citizens during the eras of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, before being caught under direct rule by Moscow seven years ago when Crimea became part of the Russia. Since then, Tatar citizens have been regularly detained and charged for being a "threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the Russian Federation and terrorist activities."

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