Sunday, June 30, 2024

North Caucasians Registering as Residents of Russia’s Northern Regions to Get Higher Subsidies, Distorting Demographic Numbers and Increasing Suspicions of Official Portals

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Using the Russian government’s internet portal, some residents of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, among the poorest federal subjects, are now registering as residents of northern regions of the country in order to get the much higher benefit payments to families paid in the latter.

            This practice means that money intended to boost family size in predominantly ethnic Russian regions is in fact going to families in North Caucasians where families still are much larger, but the practice has broader consequences and the authorities are bringing charges of fraud to court (

            On the one hand, it allows the regions in the North to claim that they are growing more than they in fact are and thus to get more funds from the center; and on the other, it allows the center to conclude that the growth rates in the North Caucasus have slowed far more than is in fact the case.

            But in addition to these statistical distortions, such practices mean that pressure is likely to grow to require in-person registration rather than allow people across the Russian Federation to make use of government internet sites, something that will further complicate the life of the government and increase costs as well.


Putin’s War in Ukraine May Open the Way for Civic Partnerships in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – The Russian government under Putin has long sought to promote marriages as a way to increase the birthrate and has refused to register civic partnerships, in which couples live together and enjoy many of the same rights that married people do as far as government assistance and inheritance and a practice now common in Europe.

            But now, Putin’s war in Ukraine may be changing that; and Duma deputies have introduced a bill to recognize civic partnerships between those servicing in Ukraine and their partners at home, allowing the latter to collect benefits in the event of the death or injury of the former (

            Among the factors behind this effort, Aby Shukyurov says, are changes in marriage and divorce rates among Russians over the last several years, changes that reflect both the impact of the covid pandemic and that of the war in Ukraine (

            Reviewing these changes, the To Be Precise journalist says that there was a five-month-long increase in the number of marriages following Putin’s declaration of a partial mobilization but that it was followed by decreases in the number of marriages and the restoration of the declining trend of earlier years but the number of divorces continued to grow throughout.

            More than that, Shukyurov continues, “if one excludes from the analysis of the period of mobilization, it turns out that for the period of January through August 2022, Russians concluded 3.8 percent fewer marriages for the analogous period of 2021.” That means that “the marriage boom was linked to mobilization” and the fears of injuries and deaths among those sent to fight.

            Significantly, increases in the number of marriages was greatest among the poorest regions and republics of Russia, precises the places from which the Putin regime initially sought to find soldiers to fight its war.  Meanwhile, divorces in these places also shot up, although these may have been of fictional marriages contracted to get government benefits, demographers say. 

            According to Shukyurov, “the marriage boom during the period of mobilization is an indirect indication that for part of the population, the most preferred form of partnership is the civic marriage” because it allows female partners to get benefits if their male partner dies in combat.

            But other demographers suggest that the government’s maternal capital is also playing a role given that many parents would like to receive it but don’t want to have to enter into a marriage to do so. Civic partnerships would allow them to do so and also to reduce the share of Russia children listed as born out of wedlock, 23 percent or more than twice that in Soviet times.

Russians Increasingly View Torture by Authorities as Justified, Opening the Way to More against Society as a Whole, Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 26 – Only about one Russian in three now views torture by the authorities as always wrong, down from almost twice that number only a few years ago; and this acceptance of torture to force confessions or control prisoners is opening the way to still more draconian measures not only against prisoners but against the broader society, anti-torture activists say.

            The Putin regime has increasingly used torture against those it has incarcerated and now is openly acknowledging that it does so, as in the case of those accused of being behind the Crocus Hall terrorist attack highlights (

            That case attracted widespread international condemnation, but overwhelmingly Russians viewed the use of torture against accused terrorists as appropriate and even as a means of restoring justice after the authorities had proven incapable of preventing the terrorist attack in the first place, activists say.

            But with each passing year and especially since Putin launched his expanded war in Ukraine, Russians have become more acceptant of the use of terror in other circumstances, activists say; and they warn that almost all Russians are now at risk of being tortured even if they are suspected of only the most minor real crimes or imaginary political ones.


Saturday, June 29, 2024

After Dagestani Attacks, Moscow will Increase Its Repression of Muslim Dissidents and Even Many Liberals won’t Come to Their Defense, Latypova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – The terrorist attacks in Dagestan, the result of the lack of consolidation among the peoples of Russia and a clear failure by Moscow’s security services, will further “marginalize and endanger Russia’s Muslims, leading to expanded repression of Muslim dissidents, Leyla Latypova says.

            And what is especially worrisome, the Moscow Times journalist who writes a new weekly column for that paper on ethnic and regional issues and who is herself a Muslim, many Russian liberals will not stand up for these new victims of Kremlin repression (

            Contrary to Kremlin claims, the attacks in Derbent and Makhachkala happened precisely because of “the lack of consolidation among the Russian populace.” Many seem oblivious to the fact that “opposition to the war in Ukraine is not the only source of deep divisions among Russian nationals.” They differ in their assessment of many things including history.

            “For some in Russia,” Latypova continues, “Muslims and ethnic minorities are becoming useful scapegoats for channeling frustration and anger fueled by the war in Ukraine, bearing collective responsibility for tragedies that should rather be blamed on the ineffectiveness of the Russian government.”

            Latypova continues: “As an Indigenous Muslim woman, I look at this trend with great worry; but what concerns me most is knowing that Sunday’s attacks will give the Kremlin and Russia’s security services even more freedom to repress Muslim dissidents” and that this expanding form of repression will not be condemned by Russians, “even the most liberal ones.”

Kremlin Still Views Khabarovsk Region as Problematic and Disloyal, Kynyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Despite the fact that former Khabarovsk Governor Mikhail Degtyaryov managed to stop the protests in support of Sergey Furgal, the LDPR leader whom he replaced, the Kremlin’s choice of Moscow prosecutor Dmitry Demeshin to replace him indicates the Kremlin still views the region as problematic and disloyal, Aleksandr Kynyev says.

            The specialist on regional politics at Moscow’s HSE made those comments in an interview with the Okno Group which notes that the political scientist’s conclusions are shared by many activists in Khabarovsk (

            According to Kynyev, “Degtyaryov’s appointment in 2020 was a kind of compromise for the center which felt it could not appoint a tougher official then. Instead, it named someone who was nominally a member of an opposition party but in fact was absolutely loyal to the central authorities.”

            “If we look at the results of the elections in 2021,” he continues, “then from the point of view of formal statistics, the situation regarding protests had in fact calmed down. But Moscow still remained concerned about the real state of affairs in the republic.” Now, it has taken another step to impose its will there.

            Kynyev argues that “the Kremlin is still very cautious about the situation in the region and has clear concerns about possible incidents and even controllability. It needs someone in place who is absolutely one of their number and absolutely loyal who will show himself to be devoted first of all to Moscow.”

            “On the one hand,” he concludes, “this shows the persistence of fear; and on the other, it is a clear sign that there is no one within Degtyaryov’s own circle who could guarantee calm. Naming a prosecutor as governor is an ideal choice for the center: he is completely loyal, accustomed to working in a strict hierarchy,” and will criminalize any opposition actions.

Even if War Ends, Moscow Unlikely to Reduce Military Spending Lest Economy Collapse, Itskhoki Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Russia is currently spending 8.7 percent of its GDP on the military and security services, twice as high as any Western country, with 40 percent of its federal budget now directed to those ends. That spending is boosting the economy, and Moscow will be unlikely to cut back significantly even if the war ends lest the economy collapse, Oleg Itskhoki says.

            The Russian economist at UCLA says the current growth of the Russian economy is “largely the result of the stimulus provided by large government expenditures on war,” with approximately a third of the growth driven by increases in the military-industrial complex” (

            The dependence of the entire economy on military spending, Itskhoki says, is so great is that if the war end sand “even if there is no direct need for continuing to produce drones and artillery shells, Russia will nonetheless maintain a high level of military spending” well into the future regardless of its policies toward the West.

            Such a course will not reflect “any sort of Kremlin logic about the need to maintain a perpetual conflict with the West,” he argues. Instead, it will be the product of “simple economic reasoning: abruptly cutting off the injection of more than eight percent of GDP in government spending is impossible without causing a severe economic collapse.”

            And “that is precisely why high levels of military spending will probably remain an integral part of Russian economic policy until the budget and National Welfare Fund are depleted.” Reductions will come then only as a forced economic step caused by some budgetary crisis.”

            “Until that day inevitably comes, though,” Itskhoki says, “the Russian economy will almost certainly continue pouring unconscionable amounts of its industrial and human capital into the production of death and destruction.”


Islamic Radicalism in Russia Very Different from Its Counterparts in Arab World, Amelina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 25 – Many make the mistake in thinking that Islamist radicalism in the Russian Federation is the same as its counterpart in the Arab world, Yana Amelina says; but in fact, it is very different in that it is not confined to the poorest parts of society but rather reflects a political choice that even the wealthiest and most powerful may make.

            The coordinator of the Caucasus Geopolitical Club and a longtime specialist on the North Cacausus says that in the wake of the Derbent and Makhachkala attacks,  “it is incorrect to transpose on Russian realities the particular features of radical Islamism in Arab countries, southeast Asia and so on”  (

            “Our radical Islamists,” Amelina argues, “have come from the most varied strata of society, including the highly placed with people from wealth families and good educations also joining this trend. In Russi, radical Islamism is a religious-ideological choice and not a low-paying job.”

            Because of the military operation in Ukraine, however, many in Moscow and elsewhere have failed to recognize this and to see the real nature of Islamist radicalism in Russia and how it is becoming ever more dangerous with its adepts not going “into the forests” as before but engaging in suicidal attacks in cities, she continues.

            Moscow must shut down the social networks that communicate the ideas behind such moves and recognize that those carrying out such attacks are working for the West. That is why these Islamists are focusing not on building an Islamic state but on separating the North Caucasus from Russia and promoting Russia’s disintegration.

            Up to now, as has just happened in Dagestan, the Islamists in Russia have attacked Christian and Jewish targets; but there is a growing possibility that they will turn their fire not on churches and synagogues but on Russian tourists visiting the region. That is something Moscow must do everything in its power to prevent, Amelina concludes.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Since Crocus City, Russia’s Federal Subjects have Increasingly Diverged on the Handling of Immigrant Workers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 22 – Russian law specifies that the federal subjects rather than Moscow have the right to regulate how many migrant workers they take in and how many restrictions such workers face. As a result, there is a growing divergence among the federal subjects on such measures.

            Even before the Crocus City attack, a small number of federal subjects had begun to introduce restrictions on migrant workers; but after that, the number increased dramatically; and now approximately a third of the more than 80 federal subjects restrict such workers one way or another.

            But what is striking, Moscow analyst Aleksandr Shustov says, is that two categories of these subjects have not done so: the megalopolises like Moscow and Petersburg where migrant workers are most common and the Muslim republics in the North Caucasus and the Middle Volga (

            On the one hand, he says, that means the migrant workers are increasingly concentrated in the capitals, exacerbating ethnic tensions in these two big urban agglomerations. And on the other, it means that there is a growing divide between other Russian federal subjects that don’t want immigrants to increase in number and Muslim republics which are happy to receive them.

            That in turn means that the ethnic structure of the populations of the capitals and the ethnic and religious balance of the country as a whole are rapidly changing, something Shustov says will cause problems. And he urges that the central government take control of this issue lest it undermine the country’s national security. 

Moscow’s Rejection of New International Classification of Diseases Hurts Not Only Homosexuals but Russian Veterans and Others as Well, Aronov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Earlier this year, the Kremlin forced the Russian health ministry to reverse its decision to recognize the new International Classification of Diseases because that document asserts that homosexuality is not a disease, a position at odds with Putin’s ideas about traditional values.

            That decision sparked outrage among the gay community and its defenders both in Russia and abroad, with many concluding that this move seriously harmed the rights of homosexuals and further distanced Russia from the West (

            But now, Russian journalist Nikita Aronov who specializes on health issues says that it is important to recognize that many other groups of Russians, including most immediately Russian veterans suffering from PTSD, will he hurt as well as a result of this Kremlin move against homosexuals (

            As many as 20 percent of Russian soldiers returning from Ukraine suffer from PTSD, the Russian government has admitted (; and their fate depends in large measure on which classification of that illness the authorities will use.

            Under the old ICD, Aronov points out, those suffering from PTSD are “at risk of being misdiagnosed as ‘schizophrenics’ instead of receiving proper treatment,” while under the new ICD that Moscow has rejected, they would be far more likely to be accurately classified and given the treatment they need.

            The same thing is true for those suffering from a variety of other diseases, including ADHD which is not listed in the former ICD manual, he continues; but it is striking that by refusing to recognize the new ICD as authoritative, Moscow has almost certainly guaranteed that none of these people, including those Putin calls “heroes,” will get the help they need.

Fliers Telling Russian Women Not to Have Children with Central Asian Men Circulating in Tyumen

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – The NeMoskva news agency posts a picture of a flier now circulating in the Siberian city of Tyumen telling ethnic Russian women there that they must not have children with Central Asian men but give birth only to “real ethnic Russians,” the latest example of racist messaging in Russia.

            The flier appears to be more professionally done than most such messages are, but perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this situation is not the flier itself but the reaction of interior ministry officials when asked what they were going to do about it (

            A press spokesman for the Tyumen office of the interior ministry, the NeMoskva agency reports, said his agency would check whether the report was true and then decide how to react. But he added that if reports about the leaflet turn out to be false, “measures of a legal character will be taken.”

            In short, the police have decided to adopt a wait and see attitude about the leaflets but they are ready to file charges against those who have brought these leaflets to their attention if the authorities conclude that is fake news, exactly the opposite of the balance in concerns about such things should be. 

Siberians will Be Independent but Whether as One State or Many is Unclear, Activist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Stanislav Suslov, a member of the Movement for the Independence of Siberia who now lives in Serbia, says that independence for Siberians is inevitable but what remains unclear is whether they will eventually form one county or a number of them after what he hopes will be a peaceful “divorce” from Moscow.

            In Lithuania for a meeting of regional and ethnic activists from the Russian Federation, he argues that this process will complete the demise of the Muscovite empire that began in 1991 (

            What remains uncertain, Suslov continues, is whether the peoples of the enormous region east of the Urals will form one country or many. Clearly, many of the non-Russians will want independence, but others may be quite willing to work with ethnic Russians there and form a federal or confederal state.

            He says that if the peoples of the region divide up Siberia into a large number of relatively small countries, there is a great danger that they will fall under Chinese domination, thus echoing at the regional level an argument often heard in Moscow against any independence for the lands east of the Urals. 

            How compelling his argument for a Siberian federation will be remains to be seen, but it is an intriguing indication that activists there are thinking about what might happen after independence is achieved and beginning to think about how they will defend their interests in that event.

            Suslov also makes another point that may matter enormously in the future. He says that all too many people, including many in Moscow, view Siberia only as a source of raw materials for the development of the rest of Russia or for sale abroad. Instead, he says, Siberia like any other modern country must focus on non-extractive industries if it is to have a future.

Returning Veterans with Criminal Pasts Such a Threat to Russia that New Laws about Them are Needed, KPRF Duma Deputy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Many Russian commentators have expressed fears that veterans returning from Putin’s war in Ukraine will resemble but be even more numerous than the Afgantsy were in the 1990s, especially because the Kremlin has recruited criminals to serve there ( and

            Up to now, however, the Russian authorities have treated these veterans with kid gloves, presented them as the new elite, and even sought to make it easier for former convicts to own guns ( and

            But now, after a series of gruesome crimes including murder and rape, some officials are expressing alarm; and the KPRF’s Nina Ostanina, who chairs the Duma’s Committee on Defense of the Family, is calling for action because “these people represent a danger to society” ( and

            She says that officials must take special measures to defend Russia against former convicts who are now being feted as heroes but who a coming back to their former homes and committing new crimes and has called for the adoption of special laws to prevent them from wreaking a wave of terror on Russian society.  

             Because Putin has presented such veterans as important components of the new elite that he sees the war creating, Ostanina's proposal for new legislation is unlikely to go anywhere. But the fact that she has raised this issue in the way that she has may make even Kremlin loyalists more concerned about ensuring that such veterans will be harshly punished if they do commit new crimes.  


Putin Set to Allow China Direct River Access to Sea of Japan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – China has long sought to get Russia to agree to allow its ships to pass through a 15-kilometer stretch of the Tumanna River, which flows along the border of China and North Korea and then forms the border between the Russian Federation and North Korea, to allow its ships to reach the Sea of Japan via that route.

            But Russia as resisted, fearful that allowing China that access would allow Beijing to increase its influence in the region. Now, however, after Vladimir Putin’s visit to China, it appears that Moscow is prepared to begin serious negotiations over this route, which Beijing has already said it will seek to widen and to demolish a bridge that might block its ships.

            Japan is alarmed (, and independent Russian and Ukrainian outlets are treating such moves as yet another example of Putin’s deference to China at Russia’s expense ( and

            The reasons Russians are concerned lies in the history of Putin’s dealings with Chinese claims in the region. Fifteen years ago, he agreed to meet Beijing’s demands and hand over four islands and half of a fifth in the Amur border region. That led China to produce maps last year showing much of this area as again Chinese, maps that Moscow was slow to object to.

On that case, see, and

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Lukashenka’s Remark about Jews Echoes State Anti-Semitism of Late Soviet Period

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – Speaking to a conference on corruption in Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka pointed out that “more than half” of those accused of this crime are Jews while insisting that he personally is “not an anti-Semite,” precisely the kind of remarks typical of state anti-Semitism in in Khrushchev’s times and more generally, Khaim Ben Yakov says.

            The general director of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress gives five examples from the 1960s to show how similar the Belarusian leader’s comments are to the ones Soviet officials and commentators made then (

            At that time, such comments preceded and accompanied discrimination against and repression of Jews, Ben Yakov says; and that means that the international community must protest against the possibility that Lukashenka and then perhaps Putin will follow the same path Khrushchev and other Soviet officials did.

            If Lukashenka’s remarks pass without such protests, there every chance that he and other leaders in the region will conclude that they can get away with using anti-Semitism in order to divert the attention of their populations from the problems they are now facing. The Jews will be the first victims if that happens, but they won’t be the last. 

Russia Needs Fewer People if It Remains a Petrostate and Far More if It Becomes an Expansionist One, Kulbaka Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – If Russia remains a petrostate whose oil and gas exports provide enormous wealth for its elites, that country needs no more than 40 million people. 100 million fewer than now; but if it becomes an expansionist one, then it will need vastly more than it now has to guard its lengthy borders and enormous territory, Nikolay Kulbaka says.

            That sets the stage for a fundamental conflict in Moscow between wealthy elites and Putin, one the two sides are unlikely to be able to resolve, the independent economist says. That will create the kind of uncertainties that threaten the existing system and the country (

            Over the last two decades, Russia has become a petrostate, whose exports of petroleum have given the elite enormous wealth, even though most of the population has become poorer. Indeed, to function as a state of this kind, something the elites very much like given the high level of consumption it guarantees, Russia needs only about 40 million people.

Thus, such elites are quite happy to see Russia’s population decline toward that number because besides everything else that will mean that there will be fewer unhappy people and thus fewer protests and challenges to an arrangement that could continue to work for their benefit long into the future, Kulbaka continues.

            But Vladimir Putin has put the country on a different track, one focused on expansionism. And for that, the economist says, Russia needs far more people, both to control and develop its economy and territory and to guard its borders which after all remain the longest of any country in the world.

            For that policy to have any chance to succeed, Putin needs more people not fewer, including immigrant workers from Central Asia, exactly the opposite of what the supporters of petrostate arrangements want. The latter will have to give up some of their consumption as higher wages and salaries will be required to attract immigrants and boost the birthrate.

Russian Environmental Activists Won 73 Victories in 2023 Against Government and Business

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – The Putin regime and its business allies have won victory after victory against Russian civil society, but there are exceptions. Last year, according to the Ecology Crisis Group, Russian environmental activists across the country won full or partial victories in 73 cases.

            In 40 of these cases, the government or business simply abandoned projects that the environmentalists opposed; and in 33 more, the former have been forced to change their plans or are still fighting with the environmentalists in court (

            This doesn’t mean that the depradation of the Russian environment has stopped or that the Russian government has changed its approach, but it does show that in at least this area, concerned Russian citizens can act and act effectively even against what sometimes seems to be an increasingly all-powerful state.

            And these victories, typically small-scale and far from Moscow as the Horizontal Russia portal suggests in its coverage of the Ecology Crisis Group report, should inspire other Russians to seek to defend their rights and interests rather than continuing to fall into apathy and assuming nothing can be done.


Russia’s Disintegration Could Well Begin in Far East, Romanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – The disintegration of the Russian Federation could well begin in the Far East where ever more people are talking about how different that region is from European Russia, looking abroad for allies and even positing the existence of something they call “a coastal civilization,” Igor Romanov says.

            The director of the Bereg Rus Center on Church-State Relations whose portal covers and promotes an Orthodox Christian version of Russian nationalism says that supporters of “coastal civilization” have as their main but concealed goal the presentation of such a civilization as “non-ethnic Russian, non-civic Russian and non-Orthodox” as well (

            The object of Romanov’s anger in this case is a series of articles on a Vladivostok portal that describe unique features of the life and history of the region and argue that these are sufficient to justify calling the people there are constituting a unique “coastal civilization” (

            On the one hand, such articles could easily appear to be nothing more than an example of the focus on local news that is typical of many regions of the Russian Federation. But on the other, describing the situation in the Far East as a separate “civilization” goes far beyond what is normally the case of such coverage elsewhere.

            It is clear, Romanov says, that “’the Non-Russia’ project, which has been taking shape for many years in the spiritual and cultural space of the Far East is a long-term undertaking and has support not only from a broad but also from some ‘foreign agents’ in the federal government of the Russian Federation” who fail to see that this could convert the region into a new Ukraine.

            According to the commentator, that includes some who are supporters of the BRICS alliance who are prepared to sacrifice Russia and its historical culture in the pursuit of a larger union. Russia needs good relations with China but not at the price of the loss of its unified culture and territory.

            If this danger is not recognized, Romanov says, and those pushing for a separate “coastal civilization” are not blocked, then “the threat of the collapse of our country may begin to take place on the territories of the Far East,” something that will hurt Russians living in that enormous region first of all.

            “Those who today are actively promoting the strengthening of ‘Non-Russia’ there, all these small corrupt journalists and short-sighted businessmen and politicians with a limited point of view should remember that if a negative scenario for the Far East and Russia comes to pass, they are unlikely to be needed by the new owners and will be instantly erased.”

            “Just as dust is wiped off from an old cabinet,” Romanov concludes.

Gas Deal with China Becoming Ever Less Favorable to Russia, Morokhin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Moscow and Beijing have been discussing a pipeline to carry Russian gas to China since 2006; but they haven’t been able to reach an agreement. Worse, from Moscow’s point of view, China has continued to increase its demands on the Russian side, something it feels free to do because of Russia’s loss of other gas markets abroad.

            That trend is likely to continue unless and until Moscow can begin to sell more gas to others and thus not be forced as now to grudgingly accept Beijing’s ever more extreme demands, Denis Morokhin, the economics observer for Novaya Gazeta Evropa, says (

            He suggests that China is now making demands that Moscow can hardly afford to meet including selling gas to China at domestic Russian prices, credit arrangements unfavorable to Gazprom, Chinese involvement in gas exploration inside Russia, the routing of pipelines, the amount of gas to be delivered and the formula for setting prices.

            According to Morokhin, Moscow does not want to meet any of these demands because they would effectively give China enormous power over Russia’s internal economic arrangements; but at the same time, he suggests, the Kremlin may not be able to resist much longer given the absence of other sources of money it needs for its war in Ukraine.

Moscow Now Targeting Federalists as well as Nationalists in Non-Russian Republics

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Under Putin, Moscow has long targeted nationalists in non-Russian republics because it sees them as a threat to the territorial integrity of the country while leaving those who advocate federalism largely alone, viewing them as a lesser evil or even allies in it fight with the nationalists, a view about the federalists that many nationalists share.

            Now, however, the situation has changed, Buryat activist Marina Khakhalayeva says. Moscow is still going after the nationalists, even though most of the prominent ones have been imprisoned or have left the country. But central authorities are increasingly attacking federalists in the republics as well (

            The consequence has not been to intimidate the federalists into silence but rather to drive them into the hands of the nationalists because the former have increasingly concluded that no Moscow promises can be trusted because the center opposes recognizing the rights of the republics and regions.

            The development Khakhalayeva points is less about the non-Russians than about Moscow’s concerns about developments in the regions and its decision taken earlier this year to attack federalist ideas wherever they appear (

            What remains to be seen is whether these expanded attacks on those in predominantly Russian regions who advocate real federalism for Russia will lead such people to draw similar conclusions to their counterparts in the non-Russian republics, become radicalized, and decide that only an exit from under Moscow’s control will give them the futures they want. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Fragging Appears in Russian Units in Ukraine, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – Fragging -- attacks on officers by soldiers under their command and a phenomenon that was notorious in the US military in Vietnam as well as in Soviet forces in Afghanistan as well -- is now taking place in Russian units in Ukraine, data collected by Novaya Gazeta suggest.

            The independent paper examined military court records in the occupied territories between February and October 2023. It identified more than 135 cases in which Russian soldiers were charged with killing either civilians or other Russian military personnel (

            These figures are necessarily incomplete both because of the limited time and territory they covered, the paper acknowledges, and because not all crimes of this type are brought to the courts or correctly categorized. Consequently, the real numbers may be far higher, the paper suggests.

            But even these numbers are indicative of breakdowns in command and control and unit cohesion that threaten the ability of the Russian military to carry out its mission, prompting officers to avoid giving orders that might lead to their own deaths at the hands of their own soldiers.

            And to the extent that such cases become more widely known, fragging of this kind will certainly prompt discussions among Russians in general and those in the political elite about the potentially dangerous consequences of continuing to pursue the Kremlin’s military goals and could even lead to demands for changes in both tactics and strategy.

Putin’s Recent Personnel Moves Threaten to Spark Conspiracies Against Him, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 18 – Over the course of the last month, Vladimir Putin has offended large swaths of his entourage by firing or demoting officials but leaving them or their supporters in position of real power where there is a growing possibility that at least some of them may engage in conspiracies to oust him from power, Igor Eidman says.

            Indeed, the Russian commentator argues, “never before in the Putin leadership have their been so many people who have been offended by the dictator” (

By his actions, Eidman says, Putin has seriously offended influential “clans” headed by Patrushev, Shoygu, and generals from the defense ministry as well as senior officials in the Presidential Administration and the wealthy partners of all these people in business and elsewhere.

“None of this would have been a problem for Putin if he had acted in a Stalinist manner and had the offended been sent to the camps. But they haven’t been dealt with in this way and preserve their positions in power.” And as a result, the commentator continues, Putin himself “has created a seedbed” for a revolt by those nominally closest to him.

Almost all of the officials who have been demoted or seen their positions weakened, including Patrushev, Shoygu, Gerasimov, and Kiryenko, still retain real power and influence; and having been “mortally offended” by Putin, they may decide to act against him before he can take even more steps against themselves.