Tags: nyt


For the Kremlin, Aleksei Navalny Is a Threat It Cannot Speak Of

A few words from me in The New York Times publication by Andrew Higgins, on the blurred line between the internal policy management bodies and the Ministry of Defence (to put it bluntly). Published before the news of the hour came in.

"But the border between treachery in service of a foreign power and domestic opposition has grown increasingly blurred of late. “All domestic politics are now seen as a reflection of foreign threats,” said Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist and a former member of the Kremlin’s human rights council who was ousted from the body last year in a purge of independent-minded members. “This perception is not entirely new, but has reached unprecedented dimensions in recent years.”

She added: “The view that everything in the world is a battleground between great powers is the belief and religion of Russia’s ruling elite at the moment.”

President Vladimir V. Putin has never publicly mentioned the opposition leader’s name in 20 years of speeches and interviews. Why? He is “completely out of their control,” which is intolerable, one analyst says.

Navalny, Putin Critic With Suspected Poisoning, Arrives in Germany

Talked to Andrew Kramer of The New York Times on the political effects of poisoning.

“There are cases that go both ways,” Ekaterina Schulmann, a Moscow-based political analyst, said in a telephone interview. “Sometimes, instances that are publicly perceived as political terror do demoralize the opposition, and at other times they motivate people to protest, or at the least to vote in protest.”

Still, violence by pro-Kremlin activists and arrests for administrative offenses have kept Mr. Navalny out of sight for important events like protests and elections. Mr. Navalny will now be absent from campaigning before the September local elections.

If Mr. Navalny remains in Germany for a lengthy recovery or indefinitely as a political exile, the Russian government stands to benefit politically, Ms. Schulmann said.

“It is very useful to have an opposition figure in exile,” she said. “He can be cast in the state media as a person who fled Russia. They can present it as unpatriotic behavior.”

After hours of back-and-forth between Russian doctors and officials, Aleksei A. Navalny was flown to Berlin, where he is being treated at a research hospital.

Putin, Russia’s Man of Action, Is Passive, Even Bored, in the Coronavirus Era

International workers' solidarity: me trying to be kind and compassionate in The New York Times, explaining the volatility of Russian public opinion to Andrew Higgins.

"After lying low when the coronavirus first surfaced in Russia in late February and early March, Mr. Putin has this month appeared almost daily on television, holding teleconferences from his country residence outside Moscow. But his heart does not seem to be in it.

“He gives an impression of being tired, even bored,” said Yekaterina Schulmann, a former member of the Kremlin’s advisory council for civil society and human rights.

Yet, having staked so much of his popularity on the revival of Russia as a great power, Mr. Putin has fallen out of step with a public “that is fast losing interest in foreign policy” and that has stopped viewing the machinations of the West “as an excuse for everything that has gone wrong at home,” Ms. Schulmann said.

Mr. Putin’s approval rating, which stood at 69 percent in February, slipped to 63 percent in March, according to the Levada Center, a Moscow-based independent polling organization. Most leaders in Europe have seen their ratings soar during coronavirus lockdowns.

Russia’s “public mood is very volatile. People are scared of the virus and also for the economy,” Ms. Schulmann said. Mr. Putin “cannot find a tone that resonates” with the public, she added".

The pandemic has derailed Vladimir V. Putin’s plans for a big military parade and a referendum extending his rule — and now knocked out his prime minister — as the Russian leader struggles to find his stride.

Not Just a Crisis: Coronavirus Is a Test for Putin’s Security State

Me trying to convince Western media that an epidemic is not an unmixed blessing, even for autocratic governments: The New York Times.

"“A state of emergency is a happy time for any law enforcement authorities,” said Ekaterina Schulmann, a political commentator and former member of Mr. Putin’s human rights council. Referring to the stakes for the Kremlin as it navigates the crisis, she added: “On the one hand, you are viewed as a protector and a savior. On the other, you can become the focus of discontent.”

Mr. Putin’s grand bargain with Russians has been to provide stability, competent governance and greater respect on the world stage, at the cost of fewer democratic rights. The public’s support of the bargain has slipped in recent years amid declining incomes and anger over official corruption".

The outbreak offers an opportunity to examine the capabilities of Russia’s expanding surveillance apparatus, and gives Vladimir Putin a chance to prove his indispensability.

Russia’s Highest Court Opens Way for Putin to Rule Until 2036

Lose you temper in public, it gets you a quote in The New York Times. True, when I get angry and forget my manners, I start to sound like "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" with a sore head.

"Ekaterina Schulmann, a political commentator and former member of Mr. Putin’s human rights council, mocked the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Monday as evidence of how cravenly pliant Russia’s nominally independent judicial system had become.

“It is rare that the spirit of slavery and intellectual cowardice express themselves with such fullness in a written text,” she said in a commentary posted on Facebook".

The ruling, slammed by Kremlin critics as a sham, approves constitutional changes to free the Russian president from term limits.

Putin Proposes Constitutional Ban on Gay Marriage

The New York Times on our constitutional fantasies, emphasising the "gay marriage ban", which is not exactly there. My quotes on the ideological wrapping of the whole thing and the Great Turnout Problem:

"By including an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, “they are reinventing the vote as a referendum for traditional values,” said Ekaterina Schulmann, a Moscow-based political scientist.

“They gave it a label to attract both those in favor, and those opposed,” she said. “If turnout is properly high, then this new amended constitution will be legitimized both in the eyes of the internal audience and international community.”

Seeking to build interest in an impending referendum, the Russian president offered divisive new proposals on hot-button cultural issues.

The New York Times on today's "Network" sentence in Penza, with some explanations from me

"The critics said that the security agencies and other law enforcement groups face intense pressure to produce results, which could explain why they are reduced to fabricating cases against vulnerable people.

“All counter-extremism agencies have to fight against something all the time,” wrote Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist, in an op-ed about the Network case.

“Our citizens do not really want to take part in extremist organizations — this is not our national sport,” she said. “But reports need to be written, so things have to be constructed in order to unveil them later.”

The young men received sentences of up to 18 years on the basis of confessions obtained under torture, their lawyers and rights advocates say.

Big Changes? Or Maybe Not. Putin’s Plans Keep Russia Guessing

Me being a grammar nazi in The New York Times, thanks to Anton Troianovski

"The bigger question was what would happen to Mr. Putin himself. New clues came on Monday with the publication of a 29-page bill to enact the constitutional changes that he outlined last week.

Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist, wrote that the first thing she noticed about the bill was the commas: So many of them seemed to be missing that it appeared the bill had been drafted and published in haste".

Is he setting the stage to lead Russia for years to come? Is he planning to step down? The confusion may be part of President Vladimir Putin’s strategy.

Meanwhile, NYT on the Ustinov affair, using my quote from Коммерсантъ on solidarity and its fruits

Rare show of defiance, indeed!

“In terms of corporate solidarity, this is not the first time it is being expressed,” Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist in Moscow and a member of President Vladimir V. Putin’s Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told Kommersant, a Russian newspaper. “Any unity is an effective instrument.”

Though the theater and film industries are firmly controlled by the Kremlin, many Russian actors spoke out against what they called a trumped-up case.