ON MY MIND
Mikhail Zelensky's report in Slon.ru (featured below) is worth a read. Zelensky uses statistical modeling to show that as much as 45 percent of the votes United Russia received may have been falsified. If this is correct -- and it certainly fits with the reports of ballot stuffing, protocol falsification, and carousel voting that circulated Sunday -- then it suggests that United Russia not only didn't receive a super-majority, it didn't even receive a simple majority. It suggests that turnout was even lower than the dismal (by Russian standards) 47.8 percent that was reported. It suggests that despite Vladimir Putin's sky-high approval ratings, the regime as a whole has exhausted its public support. It explains why the Kremlin felt the need to effectively muzzle Russia's only independent pollster, the Levada Center, weeks before the elections.
And the lack of public protest of what appears to have been a rigged election shows that Russian society is opting out of the process and has resigned itself to this new reality.
IN THE NEWS
Yevhen Zhylin, the founder of the pro-Russian militant group Oplot and who was wanted for terrorism by Ukraine, has been shot dead in a Moscow suburb.
Ukraine says it has detained a 25-year-old Uzbek national on suspicion of spying for Russia.
Russia says Syrian government troops, supported by Russian air forces, have repelled an offensive by "terrorists" on the northern fringes of Syria's largest city of Aleppo.
The United States says it is prepared to extend a cease-fire in Syria despite violations but called on Russia to clarify a statement by the Syrian Army that the truce was over.
A court in Siberia has banned one of Russia's most popular LGBT news sites, BlueSystem.ru, without warning.
Members of the Russian dissident art collective Voina have been detained in Prague and face extradition to Russia.
WHAT I'M READING
The New KGB
Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia's security service with the Institute of International Relations in Prague, has a piece on the European Council on Foreign Relations' website looking at the prospects and implications of Russia creating a new Ministry of State Security.
"If true, this would be a serious shift in policy, reflecting a dawning awareness on Putin’s part that his old strategies for governing Russia are looking increasingly ineffective," Galeotti writes.
Meanwhile, in an informative piece in Slon.ru, historian Boris Sokolov reminds us that throughout Soviet and Russian history, massive reorganizations of the security services have been the norm.
The Power Couple
Ellie Geranmayeh and Kadri Liik have a new report out for the European Council on Foreign Relations: The new power couple: Russia and Iran in the Middle East
"Iran-Russia relations have reached an unprecedented peak, fueled by military cooperation in Syria, a shared vision of the global order, and mutual criticism of Western policy in the Middle East," Geranmayeh and Liik write.
"Tehran is a useful ally to Moscow in a highly unstable region, but it is just one thread in Moscow’s patchwork of important relationships that need careful balancing."
More Elections Postmortems
Mikhail Zelensky, Slon.ru's senior editor, has a piece using statistical models to suggest that nearly half of United Russia's vote total may have been falsified.
Also in Slon, Zelensky looks at what United Russia will be able to do with its new super-majority.
Political analyst Georgy Bovt has a piece in Gazeta.ru on the death of mass political parties in Russia.
Mikhail Kaluzhsky, Maxim Edwards, and Thomas Rowley have a piece in OpenDemocracy arguing that Russia's State Duma elections "hint at the next stage of regime mobilization."
Requiem For A Cease-Fire
In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky explains why Putin may not really want a Syria deal.
"What looked like a promising U.S.-Russian deal in Syria has collapsed amid mutual recriminations. Throughout the failed truce, Russia behaved as though it didn't attach much value to it, and it probably doesn't want an agreement with the U.S. to stick just yet," Bershidsky writes.
SRP Podcast: The American Mission To Save Russia
The new SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at U.S. efforts to assist Russia throughout history. Sean's guest is Rutgers University historian David Foglesong, author of the book The American Mission And The Evil Empire and the recently published article The Perils Of Prophecy: American Predictions About Russia's Future Since 1881.