ON MY MIND
As Halya Coynash notes in a piece featured below, a little-discussed aspect of Russia's March 18 presidential elections calls their very legitimacy into question.
The fact that Russia is holding the elections in Crimea, which was illegally annexed and is internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory, Coynash writes, "invalidates any outcome."
Similar arguments were made following the September 2016 State Duma elections, which were also held in Crimea.
Such claims, of course, do not appear to bother the Kremlin.
Not only is it holding the election in Crimea, it is flaunting this fact by moving the date of the vote to March 18, the fourth anniversary of the annexation.
In addition to being a legitimization ritual for Vladimir Putin's regime, next month's election are also part of a longer-term ritual that aims to legitimize the annexation of Crimea.
IN THE NEWS
Vladimir Putin has been formally registered as a candidate in Russia's March 18 presidential election.
A total of 32 Russian athletes, including six-time gold-medalist speed skater Viktor Ahn, have filed appeals with the Court of Arbitration for Sport as they race to find spots at the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Russia and the United States have clashed at the United Nations Security Council over allegations the Syrian government has again used chemical weapons in rebel-held areas of the country.
Moscow authorities have struggled to clear the streets and told children they could skip school after the Russian capital was hit by massive snowfall.
A Kyiv court has rejected opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili's appeal for protection against possible extradition, a ruling his lawyer says increases the chances he will be deported or handed over to the Georgian authorities.
Investigators in Moscow have summoned opposition politician Aleksei Navalny for questioning over what they claim was an assault on the police officers who detained him at a rally late last month.
Several senior government officials in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan have been detained on financial fraud charges, the Investigative Committee says.
After meeting in Brussels, EU and Georgian officials expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the implementation of their Association Agreement and pledged to deepen cooperation.
WHAT I'M READING
Siloviki Road Trip
In Republic.ru, Moscow-based foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at what was behind the recent visit of Russian security officials to Washington.
A report in the BBC's Russian service looks at a questionnaire soldiers in the Southern Military District are being required to fill out. It asks about their attitude toward opposition demonstrations, specific opposition figures, whether they would be willing to use force against protesters, and whether any of their colleagues speak out against Putin.
The existence of the questionnaire was first revealed last week on Aleksei Navalny's Twitter feed and YouTube channel.
An Illegitimate Election?
On the website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Halya Coynash argues that the fact that Russia's March 18 presidential election is being held on the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula makes it illegitimate. She argues, therefore, that the OSCE should not legitimize the election by observing it.
Yavlinsky To The Kremlin?
In her column for Republic.ru, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya unpacks recent speculation that Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky might get a Kremlin post after the election.
Maria Snegovaya has published a report for the Center for European Policy Analysis: Reviving The Propaganda State: How The Kremlin Hijacked History To Survive.
Putin 4.0: No Vision, No Hope
Maria Domanska, a senior fellow at Poland's Center for Eastern Studies, has a commentary looking ahead to Putin's fourth term.