ON MY MIND
With the EU about to decide whether or not to renew sanctions on Russia, Moscow's approach to Europe has been one part charm offensive and one part saber rattling.
Vladimir Putin visited Greece last week, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Hungary, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has accepted an invitation to visit St. Petersburg to attend an economic forum.
Meanwhile, Moscow just can't resist threatening some European countries. In Athens last week, during a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Putin said Poland and Romania were in Moscow's "crosshairs" for hosting components of a U.S. missile-defense shield. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, meanwhile, says Russia's countersanctions against the West will be extended through 2017.
It may be just schizophrenia. Or it may be a coordinated strategy. And next month, when the EU votes on sanctions, we'll see if it worked.
THIS WEEK'S POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING
On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss Russia's schizophrenic policy toward Europe on the eve of the EU's decision on extending sanctions with Pavel Butorin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time.
THE LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST
And in case you missed it, on the latest Power Vertical Podcast, I discuss Nadia Savchenko's political future with co-host Mark Galeotti and Natalia Churikova, managing editor of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.
IN THE NEWS
Vladimir Putin says Romania and Poland are now in Russia's "crosshairs" for hosting components of a U.S. missile-defense system.
Ukraine is using a "you invaded us" defense as Russia sues to recover a $3 billion credit.
Kommersant is reporting that Russia is considering issuing its own cryptocurrency.
Relatives of the Armenian family killed by a Russian soldier are reportedly suing Russia for 450,000 euros.
Turkey's deputy prime minister predicts that relations with Moscow will improve shortly.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has reportedly accepted an invitation to attend an economic forum in St. Petersburg.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have discussed possible cooperation between Moscow and Washington in Syria.
Ukraine says pro-Moscow separatists have shelled Ukrainian positions 25 times in the last 24 hours.
Viktor Trepak, the former deputy head of the Ukrainian Security Service, says ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions paid about $2 billion in cash to bribe both former and incumbent top officials. Trepak says he has submitted documents confirming the payments to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
WHAT I'M READING
Juncker's Controversial Russia Visit
According to a report in Politico, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker faces growing resistance from the United States, some European countries -- and even among his own staff -- to a trip to Russia next month.
"According to diplomatic sources, several countries -- including the U.K. and the U.S. as well as some Baltic and Central European nations -- have privately expressed unease that Juncker’s participation in an event clearly designed to burnish Putin’s credentials as a statesman could only bolster the Russian position at a delicate moment in the sanctions debate. It remains unclear whether Juncker would meet one-on-one with Putin."
Let The Ballot Stuffing Begin!
Russia's parliamentary elections are more than three months away, but the ballot stuffing appears to have already begun -- in United Russia's primaries, according to a post on Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall portal.
"This might all sound like some bad joke -- if you turn a blind eye to the bruises and contusions, that is. The 'party of power,' as United Russia styles itself, staged internal elections -- resulting in the same “carousels” and stuffing of ballots that it has always been accused of orchestrating. And in the end, the wonderful impulse on the part of the presidential administration and party leaders to present United Russia as a more modern -- yes, and even democratic -- political force came to absolutely naught.
So why did this charade happen? How come United Russia simply could not resist falsifying its own primaries?"
Gorbachev On Putin
In The Financial Times, John Lloyd reviews Mikhail Gorbachev's memoir, The New Russia, in which the last Soviet president offers a critical assessment of the Putin regime.
Be Careful What You Post!
Meduza has a video of a St. Petersburg man being arrested and handcuffed in his apartment for posting a comment on social media deemed "extremist" by the Russian authorities.
A Lifestyle Code For Health-Care Workers
According to a report in Izvestia, a draft code of conduct for health-care workers will require them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.