ON MY MIND
Dmitry Medvedev has suddenly gone from being a punchline to being the most reviled man in Russia. The prime minister has gone from being viewed as a cartoonish, albeit affable, buffoon to being the poster boy of official corruption.
As Damir Marusic and Karina Orlova note in a piece featured below, it is ironic that the last time Russians protested in large numbers, in 2011-12, it was driven by disappointment that the "liberal" Medvedev was being pushed out of the Kremlin by Vladimir Putin in the infamous "castling." Now protesters are calling for Medvedev's head.
And the fact that Medvedev is being assailed as Russia prepares for next year's presidential election suggests that in addition to the genuine popular anger that drove last week's protests, and in addition to Aleksei Navalny's apparent real rise as a national opposition leader, there might also be some Kremlin intrigue afoot here as well.
Is someone on the inside trying to get rid of Medvedev? Perhaps.
But it is not yet clear, as Mikhail Fishman suggests in another piece featured below, that he's truly become a lame duck. His highly publicized trip to the Arctic with Vladimir Putin appeared designed to illustrate that he is still in favor in the Kremlin.
IN THE NEWS
Ambassadors from NATO nations and Russia gathered at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels for the first NATO-Russia Council session of 2017.
Russian opposition political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. has urged U.S. lawmakers in Washington to remain engaged with Russia’s pro-democracy movement.
Hundreds of Russian truck drivers continued their strike for the third day, demanding the government repeal a road tax they say is onerous and ineffective.
PEN America has announced that it will honor imprisoned Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleh Sentsov with its 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and other senior officials traveled to the Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land for a visit aimed in part at emphasizing Russia's role in the Arctic region.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has blamed "the intelligentsia" for all of Russia's misfortunes in the 20th century.
The Russian Orthodox Church has sharply criticized a proposed referendum on the fate of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, a St. Petersburg landmark that is at the center of a bitter dispute.
Controversial World Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has reiterated that he is not resigning and says he is undecided on whether to seek reelection in September 2018.
A court in London has ruled that Ukraine has failed to present a court-ready defense in a suit by Russia seeking repayment of $3 billion lent by Moscow to the government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Poland has temporarily shut down its consulates in Ukraine after a grenade attack damaged one of them in the border town of Lutsk early on March 29.
WHAT I'M READING
Takin' It To The Streets
Commentaries, analysis, and reactions continue to pour in on last weekend's protests. Here's a sampling of some of the latest:
On the European Council on Foreign Relations website, Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique, outlines four ways that the protests have gone beyond the massive street demonstrations of 2011-12.
In a piece in OpenDemocracy, Ivan Davydov challenges some of the myths the Russian authorities are trying to perpetuate about last weekend's "teenage rebellion."
In The American Interest, Damir Marusic and Karina Orlova take a look at the Kremlin intrigue behind the protests.
In Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks ahead to how the Kremlin might respond to the protests.
In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Yevgenia Albats explains why Russia's youth are finding their voice.
Likewise, in Global Voices, Kevin Rothrock looks at Russia's Youngster Uprising.
And according to this post on VKontakte, another protest is being organized for April 2 in Moscow.
Known Knowns About Belarus Protests
Keir Giles of Chatham House has a piece on what we know about the protests in Belarus.
Russia's Polluted Polar Regions
The Siberian Times takes a look at widespread pollution in Russia's Arctic regions.
Paul Saunders has an extensive interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in The National Interest.
Alan Riley, a senior fellow at the Institute for Statecraft in London, has a piece on the Center for European Policy Analysis website on the disinformation surrounding Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.
Countering Information War
GLOBSEC has released its new report, Countering Information War: Lessons Learned From NATO And Partner Countries. The report is based on workshops held last year in Tbilisi and Bratislava (in which I was among the more than 100 participants from 15 countries).
The Man Who Knew Too Much?
Brian Bonner has a good piece in The Kyiv Post in which he interviews exiled former Russian lawmaker Ilya Ponomarev about the assassination of exiled former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov. According to Ponomarev, the authorities in Kyiv "missed the importance" of Voronenkov "as a witness" and "of protecting him as a symbol."
A Propaganda Fail In Crimea
In an op-ed in The Moscow Times, Anton Shekhovtsov, author of the upcoming book Tango Noir: Russia And The Western Far Right, argues that the latest visit by Western politicians to Crimea was a "propaganda fail" for the Kremlin.
Is Medvedev A Lame Duck
Also in The Moscow Times, Mikhail Fishman argues that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is now a lame duck.