ON MY MIND
It's pretty telling that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov felt the need to preemptively denounce what appears to be an upcoming journalistic investigation into the business dealings of Vladimir Putin and his inner circle as an "information attack." It is unclear what the report by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will reveal. It is unclear whether it will add to the body of knowledge we already have about the massive corruption syndicate otherwise known as the Putin regime. But what is clear is that the Kremlin is very nervous about such reports for one simple reason: as Russia's economy continues to reel and living standards continue to fall, the regime is going to become increasingly vulnerable on the corruption issue. For now, dismissing every corruption allegation as a foreign plot is working. But it won't work for much longer.
IN THE NEWS
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov engaged in a bit of advance damage control, claiming that foreign journalists were carrying out an "information attack" on Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
According to Russian media reports, the Kremlin is hoping to exchange Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko for convicted arms smuggler Viktor Bout and convicted drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko, both of whom are incarcerated in the United States.
Russia has ordered the manufacture of more than 10,000 medals to be awarded to military personnel for participation in the Syrian intervention.
The Kremlin says Putin may meet with Elton John when the singer visits Russia in May.
WHAT I'M READING
The War on the Rocks blog has a good read on "Radically Rethinking NATO and the Future of European Security" by Job C. Henning and Douglas Ollivant.
Likewise, Edward Lucas has a piece up at the Center for European Policy Analysis on how NATO and the European Union need to coordinate to counter Russian aggression.
Adam Reichardt, editor in chief of New Eastern Europe, says "we need to stop blaming ourselves for Russia’s aggression."
And over at the blog Russian Military Reform, Dmitry Gorenberg takes a look at the air force Russia is maintaining in Syria despite its announced pullback.
The Fruits Of Diplomacy
In a piece in Slon.ru, foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov assesses last week's flurry of diplomatic activity in Moscow, which saw U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visit the Russian capital.
Also in Slon.ru, political commentator Georgi Neyaskin looks at the ups and downs of U.S.-Russian relations during Putin's rule.
How Putin Rules
Maxim Trudolyubov, the editor at large of the Russian daily Vedomosti, takes a look at Putin's method of rule in a piece, "Three Rules of Kremlin Power," in The New York Times.
A Backlash Against Orthodoxy?
Despite all the overt displays of religiosity, Russians are actually becoming more anticlerical according to a new report by the Sova Center.
Gloating About Brussels
Aleksandr Mineyev, Novaya Gazeta's Brussels correspondent, takes a look at the different reactions in Europe and Russia to last week's attacks and how these reflect two radically different societies.
Political commentator Igor Yakovenko takes a similar line in a piece on Kasparov.ru. "Almost nobody in the Russian establishment could limit themselves to simple sympathy, which is the normal human reaction to the death and the suffering of people nearby," Yakovenko wrote. The reaction in Moscow ranged from "open happiness" about the Brussels attacks to claims of "we told you so."
Dressing For Disaster
And in the I-can't-believe-they-did-that department, television presenter Elena Malysheva, host of the program "Healthy Living," advised Russian viewers how they should dress for a plane crash.