ON MY MIND
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there is nothing wrong or unusual about Andrei Belyaninov being appointed head of the Eurasian Development Bank.
As I note in today's Daily Vertical, Belyaninov resigned in disgrace as Russia's customs chief amid a corruption probe back in July after investigators raided his home and found shoe boxes stacked with cash, priceless antiques, and expensive works of art.
And Peskov is right. There is nothing unusual about Belyaninov getting a cushy new job after appearing to take a fall. As I also note on The Daily Vertical, this kind of thing often happens.
But while corruption and opulence remains the norm for Russia's power elite -- except, of course, for those who fall out of political favor -- the living standards of ordinary Russians continue to fall.
According to a report in Vedomosti (also featured below), approximately 22 million Russians -- about one in six -- are earning less than the official living wage of $172 per month, a 2 million person increase since last year.
Russians are not naive. They know how corrupt their leaders are. But when living standards were rising, as they were for Vladimir Putin's first two terms in the Kremlin, they tended to give their rulers a free pass.
But when living standards are falling, not so much. Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has tapped into this very effectively with his anti-corruption videos and street protests.
And it's an issue that is only going to get more dangerous for the Putin regime going forward.
IN THE NEWS
Vladimir Putin is due to discuss the conflict in Syria and energy cooperation with Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei when he visits Tehran today, the Kremlin says.
A senior official in Russia says Protestant Christians are part of the country’s traditional religious communities and praised the important role they have played in Russian society.
U.S. senators have lashed out at Facebook and other leading social-media companies for failing to prevent alleged abuses of their networks by Russian operatives during last year's presidential campaign.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Moscow sees no evidence to support accusations of Russian meddling in the indictment handed down to U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman and an associate.
A controversial law tightening restrictions on the Internet comes into force in Russia today.
Ukrainian Security Service chief Vasyl Hrytsak says a woman suspected of killing a top regional security officer earlier this year in the southeastern city of Mariupol has been arrested.
Reports from Ukraine say anti-corruption investigators have detained the son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Investigators in Belarus say 10 servicemen have been charged in connection with the death of a private who was found hanged after complaining that he had been hazed and pressured for money by superiors.
WHAT I'M READING
According to a report in Vedomosti, one in six working Russians, approximately 22 million people, are earning less than the living wage of 10,000 rubles ($172) per month. The figure represents a 2 million person increase from 2016.
Ukraine And Poland
Oleksandra Iwaniuk, a PhD candidate at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, has a piece in New Eastern Europe looking at Polish-Ukrainian relations.
NATO's Eastern Flank
Judy Dempsey has a piece on the Carnegie Europe website taking an in-depth look at the challenges NATO is facing on its eastern flank.
Clans In The North Caucasus
Konstantin Kazenin, a senior research fellow with the Gaidar Institute, has a piece on the Carnegie Moscow website looking at the decline of traditional clans in the North Caucasus.
Nord Stream-2 And The Law
Alan Riley, a senior fellow at the Institute for Statecraft who advises Poland's PGNiG and Ukraine's Naftogaz energy companies, has a piece on the Center for European Policy Analysis website looking at the legal debates surrounding the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline.
Reflections Of A Valdai 'Newbie'
In a post on the site Russian Military Reform, Dmitry Gorenburg of Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies gives "reactions from a newbie" at the 2017 Valdai Discussion Forum in Sochi.
Putin's Balkan Fixation
Journalist Julia Petrovskaya has a piece in Intersection magazine about Russia's efforts to destabilize the Balkans and disrupt the peace process between Albania and Serbia over the independence of Kosovo.
The Manafort Indictment As Seen In Ukraine
On The Atlantic Council's website, Anders Aslund looks at the reactions in Ukraine to the indictment of Paul Manafort.
In her column for Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya argues that "Putin lives in two worlds that are compatible, but far from identical: the world of 'decency' and the world of 'fighting the enemy.'"
The 1917 Syndrome
On the Kennan Institute's Russia File blog, Maksim Trudolyubov looks at what Russia's reaction to the 1917 centennial reveals about its national identity.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta has a piece on how Aleksei Navalny is circumventing bans on protest rallies by holding them on private land.