ON MY MIND
What would happen if Vladimir Putin simply decided he didn't feel like campaigning? Would it even make a difference?
It's a valid question and one Oleg Kashin playfully asks in a piece featured below.
Playing off Putin's cancellation of his upcoming public appearances amid reports that he has a cold, Kashin speculates about what would happen if Putin "was too lazy to campaign at all."
He writes: "When Putin is healthy, some of his 'working meetings' are shown on television. And when Putin is ill, they also show 'working meetings.' There is no difference at all, and that makes the news of Putin's cold senseless."
Likewise, the Kremlin has plenty of footage it could use to give the appearance of a campaign.
"Vladimir Putin's media file is huge, and if he does not want to do anything now, it's time to turn to the archives," Kashin notes.
Kashin's piece is tongue-in-cheek, of course. But like most satire, it hits close to home.
Russia isn't having an election. It's having a TV show about an election.
IN THE NEWS
Russian investigators say the plane crash that killed 71 people near Moscow on February 11 could have been caused by speed gauges being iced up.
U.S. air strikes killed multiple Russia mercenary soldiers serving in Syria, according to news reports and open-source researchers, with some reports saying dozens may have died.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has received no word that U.S. air strikes killed multiple Russian mercenary soldiers in Syria, although he has seen reports of such deaths in the news media.
Russia plans to help Syria rebuild energy facilities that have been devastated by years of war, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak has said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the United States are urging Hungary and Ukraine to resolve their differences over Ukraine's new minority language law, which prompted Hungary to block a NATO ministers' meeting with Ukraine this week.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte overwhelmingly survived a late-night vote of no-confidence just hours after his foreign minister quit, admitting he had lied about attending a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The heads of the lead U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia intends to use cyberattacks, more propaganda, and other tactics to try and influence upcoming elections for the U.S. Congress and in some European countries.
An unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft has blasted off for the International Space Station, two days after the original launch was delayed.
Residents of Russia's Yaroslavl region got a scare when local TV and radio stations broadcast a radiation warning, but the Emergency Situations Ministry said the broadcast was a mistake.
The United States has accused Russia of stoking the conflict in Ukraine by disregarding its commitments under peace accords.
Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to push ahead with his struggle against Ukraine's leadership in defiant remarks in Warsaw, a day after he was seized in Kyiv and banished to Poland in a dramatic expulsion he has blamed on President Petro Poroshenko.
WHAT I'M READING
Russian Mercenaries In Syria
Reports that Russian mercenaries in Syria were killed in a U.S. air strike last week is getting increased scrutiny in the Russian media.
Republic.ru has a useful explainer about what we do and don't know, and what it means.
Meduza has used open source materials to identify some of those killed.
And in a piece for Apostrophe.ua, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin writes that the alleged deaths of Russian mercenaries in a U.S. air strike is turning into a political problem for Putin as nationalists call for a response.
New Report Calls For Change In Russian Policy Toward Neighbors
A joint report by the Russian Council on International Relations and the Moscow Center for Strategic Planning is calling for the Kremlin to abandon its ambitions to reintegrate and control the former Soviet space.
The Real Secret About Putin's Cold
In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin plays off the Kremlin's announcement that Putin has a cold and asks whether it would matter if Putin simply ignored the election campaign.
Trolling The Kremlin
In The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum looks at Aleksei Navalny's latest video expose and calls it a "virtuoso trolling of the Putin regime."
The Far Right And Pro-Kremlin Media
Much has been written on Russia's links to the Western far right. Now the Southern Poverty Law Center has published a report that flips this around and looks at the influence of the far right on pro-Kremlin media outlets in the West.