ON MY MIND
Russian soft power? Really? Quite frankly, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around Russia's surprise appearance in this year's Soft Power 30 rankings by the London-based consultancy Portland Communications.
Soft power means a country's capability to project influence abroad without resorting to military force or economic pressure.
The report cites Russia's global media empire, the attraction of its cultural heritage, and its diplomatic efforts in Syria as the key factors propelling it into the top 30.
It also notes that corruption and doping scandals, discriminatory laws against sexual minorities, and the intervention in Ukraine as factors dragging down its ranking.
Russia's counterintuitive appearance in the Soft Power 30 has made headlines.
But when you look under the hood, it appears to be less than advertised.Russia debuted in the rankings at 27th place, just ahead of China, just below Greece -- and far below the world leaders: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, and France.
And the report notes global polling shows that Russia continues to have a negative image abroad.
IN THE NEWS
The Federation Council has formally approved another five-year term for Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika.
The defendants in the Boris Nemtsov assassination case are asking for a jury trial.
A bill has been introduced into the State Duma eliminating the statute of limitations for treason and espionage.
Russia is considering selling nearly one-fifth of the state oil company Rosneft to "strategic investors" in a private transaction rather than trying to raise the money through a public offering.
Vladimir Putin will meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in St. Petersburg on June 16.
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova appealed her doping ban to the highest court in sports, which agreed to expedite a ruling before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
WHAT I'M READING
Russian Soft Power
For the first time, Russia has made it into the ranks of the world's strongest countries in terms of "soft power." According to annual rankings compiled by the London-based PR firm Portland Communications, Russia ranked 27th in soft power. (The United States ranked first.) Meduza has a pretty good explainer on what this all means.
NATO Exercises On Eve Of Summit
Edward Lucas has a brief write-up on NATO's Anaconda 16 exercises, the alliance's largest since the end of the Cold War.
The Eastern Pivot That Wasn't
Writing in Vedomosti, political analyst Aleksandr Gabuyev explains why competition between Moscow and Beijing for influence in Central Asia is hampering Russia's much-vaunted pivot to the east.
Writing in Grani.ru, political commentator Ilya Milshtein argues that the attack by Russian football hooligans on English fans in Marseilles was part of Vladimir Putin's hybrid war against the West.
LGBT Russia After Orlando
Kevin Rothrock has a piece in Global Voices on "What It's Like To Be A Lesbian In Russia, The Day After The Orlando Massacre."
"People around the world are sharing their reactions to the deadly massacre that occurred in Orlando this past weekend, where nearly 50 people were gunned down at a gay night club. For many supporters of LGBT rights in Russia, the bloodshed has been a reminder of their own vulnerability in the face of what they say is a resurgence of antigay violence in Russia," Rothrock writes.
Unearthing Kievan Rus
Styler RBK-Ukraine has an interesting piece on the archaeological ruins of Kievan Rus that are buried beneath modern Kyiv.
The Latest Russian Hack
Politico has a comprehensive write-up on the Russian hackers' theft of opposition research on Donald Trump from the computer system of the Democratic National Committee.
Goodbye Lenin -- Or Maybe Not
In an op-ed in The New York Times, author Masha Gessen asks: why do so many Lenin statues remain in Russia?
Ukraine's New Media
Writing on The Atlantic Council's website, Roman Shutov, program director of the Kyiv-based NGO Detector Media, notes that while oligarchs own much of Ukraine's media, the country's new public broadcasters are shaking things up.