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Russia (Internal)

CrisisWatch Russia (Internal)

Unchanged Situation

Detention of opposition politician Alexei Navalny sparked nationwide protests, which authorities promptly repressed. Authorities 17 Jan arrested opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who had just returned from Germany where he sought medical treatment after being poisoned in Aug 2020 with lethal nerve agent; next day sentenced him to 30 days in custody for allegedly violating his probation as part of suspended sentence he received in 2014 for embezzlement. Subsequently, tens of thousands 23 Jan took to streets in over 190 cities from Vladivostok in Far East to capital Moscow to rally in support of Navalny. President Putin 25 Jan condemned mass protests, calling them “illegal and dangerous”; independent NGO OVD-Info 26 Jan revealed over 3,800 protesters arrested and detained, including over 1,500 in Moscow. Tens of thousands of protesters 31 Jan assembled again in at least 85 cities; OVD-Info same day revealed police detained 5,000. Navalny’s arrest prompted international response as EU, UK, U.S. and Germany 17-18 Jan condemned his detention and demanded his immediate release; FMs of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and U.S. (G7) 26 Jan also called for Navalny’s release and condemned “violent suppression by police forces” of protests. Meanwhile in North Caucasus, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov 20 Jan confirmed that security forces killed Islamic State-affiliated warlord Aslan Byutukayev, involved in preparation of terrorist attacks across country, and five members of his armed group in counter-insurgency operation; Kadyrov subsequently declared that “insurgency in Chechen Republic is completely finished”. In Far East, demonstrations 2, 16, 23 and 31 Jan continued in Khabarovsk city to protest July arrest of former local governor and member of populist Liberal Democratic Party Sergei Furgal; police detained several protesters. 

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

31 Aug 2020
The Kurdish leadership has every reason to suspect that Russia will not push Damascus to accept anything that Turkey might interpret as protecting or legitimizing the YPG. Kurdistan24

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
15 Apr 2020
To issue orders that people will not obey erodes one’s power. For Putin, that is existential. Politico

Anna Arutunyan

Former Senior Analyst, Russia
6 Apr 2020
[...] this is an effort to minimize offending Moscow that reflects the fact that U.N. officials believe that continued cooperation with Russia is key to the future of humanitarian operations in Syria. New York Times

Richard Gowan

UN Director
14 Feb 2020
Escalation is likely going to continue [in Syria] as long as Turkey and Russia cannot agree on a new cease-fire. NBC News

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey
11 Sep 2018
[Russia is] targeting the [African] regimes that do have not have very good relations with the west or who are dissatisfied with west like Sudan, Zimbabwe and CAR. The Guardian

Thierry Vircoulon

Former Senior Consultant, Central Africa
27 Aug 2018
[The rapprochement between Russia and Turkey] demonstrates a striking level of pragmatism in this relationship. Associated Press

Anna Arutunyan

Former Senior Analyst, Russia

Latest Updates

Q&A / Europe & Central Asia

Deadly Clashes in Syria’s Idlib Show Limits of Turkey’s Options

A deadly attack on Turkish forces in Syria has brought Idlib’s crisis to a dangerous crossroads. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Turkey, Syria and Russia experts explain what happened and what’s at stake.

Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia

Putin’s Future: Reading the Tea Leaves

As President Putin announces changes to Russia’s constitution, Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker explores his plans for the future. Putin’s government may have resigned and his future role may be unknown, she says, but one thing is certain: he is the one calling the shots.

Originally published in Inkstick

Are There Alternatives to a Military Victory in Idlib?

Last weekend, the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia met in Ankara to discuss, among other things, the latest developments in Syria amid Turkish concerns over the consequences of a Syrian government offensive in the last rebel enclave, Idlib. 

Originally published in Valdai

Rebels without a Cause: Russia’s Proxies in Eastern Ukraine

Russia and the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s east are no longer quite on the same page, especially since the Kremlin abandoned ideas of annexing the breakaway republics or recognising their independence. The rift gives the new Ukrainian president an opportunity for outreach to the east’s embattled population, including by relaxing the trade embargo.

Is Russia Changing Its Calculus in Eastern Ukraine?

Amid expectations that Russia will test Ukraine’s new president with escalatory actions, it appears that its calculus is to wait for Kyiv’s administration to make the first move – while quietly helping the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics entrench themselves economically.