ON MY MIND
The State Duma that was elected last September has been noticeably different from its predecessor. There's been less nuttiness. There's been less weird legislation. There have been fewer antics.
And then Vitaly Milonov decided to open his mouth.
A lawmaker from St. Petersburg, Milonov is infamous as the initiator of a law banning so-called "gay propaganda."
He's now calling for the film Beauty And The Beast to be banned in Russia, calling it "a blatant, shameless propaganda of sin and perverted sexual relationships."
And it isn't just Milonov who is coming out with wacky proposals. Another lawmaker, Igor Lebedev, is suggesting that football hooliganism become a spectator sport, with fans squaring off against each other in an arena.
The conventional wisdom about the new Duma was that part of the Kremlin's logic in installing Vyacheslav Volodin as speaker was that Vladimir Putin's regime wanted a more disciplined parliament that carried out the Kremlin's wishes with little fanfare. If an obedient Duma that was also something of a circus served the regime's interests in the past, this is no longer the case.
You have to wonder whether MIlonov and Lebedev got the memo. Or whether the Kremlin is rethinking its strategy.
IN THE NEWS
Ukraine is set to launch its case against Russia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, seeking an order to halt Moscow's support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
A Russian court has ordered the release of a kindergarten teacher who was imprisoned for re-posting a child-abuse video in what she said was an innocent effort to raise awareness.
Russian lawmaker Igor Lebedev says football hooliganism should become a spectator sport, with fans squaring off against each other in an arena.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says he's opposed to extending a power-sharing agreement between Tatarstan and Moscow, calling it "atavistic."
More than 1,000 demonstrators came out in the Belarusian city of Brest on March 5 to protest against a law on "social parasitism," a Soviet-era piece of legislation still in force that obliges nonworking people to pay a tax.
Several hundred people, most of them clients of three banks in Russia's Tatarstan republic whose licenses have been revoked, have marched to the government headquarters to deliver a protest letter to the republic's leadership.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will provide a written explanation about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during last year's presidential campaign, the Justice Department has said.
The World Boxing Council says it has suspended Russian boxer Aleksandr Povetkin indefinitely after he tested positive a second time for a banned performance-enhancing drug.
Russian lawmaker Vitaly MIlonov has called for the film Beauty And The Beast to be banned as so-called "gay propaganda."
LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST
In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looked at Putin's Five-Year Chill and the crackdown on dissent from Pussy Riot to Ildar Dadin.
NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING
On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we discuss how a blockade of separatist-held areas in the Donbas is taking the war in eastern Ukraine into uncharted waters.
WHAT I'M READING
Putin And Ilyin
In Intersection magazine, Marlene Laruelle, associate director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University, argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, the early 20th-century white Russian emigre philosopher Ivan Ilyin "is not Putin’s ideological guru."
The Dangerous Mr. Kislyak
Michael Crowley has a piece in Politico on Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, "Washington's most dangerous diplomat."
Be Careful What You Wish For
Writing in The Guardian, Oliver Bullough, author of the books The Last Man In Russia and Let Our Fame Be Great, argues that Putin isn't getting what he expected from the Trump administration.
"If you are in the business of dethroning America as hegemon of the world liberal order, the last thing you want to do is actually to dethrone America, because then you have to confront the question of what happens next," Bullough writes.
"Russia has long pretended to be America’s rival for power, while all along it has actually been America’s annoying little brother. Putin has only been able to do what he’s done because, in a scrap, America would always have his back in the playground. If that is no longer the case, Putin is in trouble."
Moscow's Balkan Games
Bellingcat has just released a report on Russian active measures aimed at destabilizing the Balkans.
The Strange Case Of Vladimir Luzgin
Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group looks at the case of Vladimir Luzgin, a blogger convicted of rehabilitating Nazism for re-posting an article about the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland.
The Case For Arms Control
In The Moscow Times, Vladimir Frolov argues that it is time to make nuclear arms control great again.