Monday, 16 November 2015

Zaporizhzhia Diary, South-Eastern Ukraine, November 2015

by Duncan Leitch (CREES) with Svetlana Kruglyak (Vmeste Zaporizhzhia)

Zaporizhzhia is regarded as one of Ukraine’s most important manufacturing centres with steel and machine-building sectors which account for 10% of the country’s productive and export capacity. Yet even in Soviet times the region was overshadowed by its more powerful neighbours, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk, and its local political elites have remained weak and largely subject to manipulation from Kyiv. This tendency reached new heights in the Yanukovich period, when the activities of the notorious Smotryashchiy figure enabled the former president’s ‘family’ to extract extortionate rents from most of the region’s large and small enterprises and earned Zaporizhzhia the unfortunate reputation of being Ukraine’s most corrupt region.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Wedding of the Century: More Evidence of a Soft Exit for Chechnya?

In Chechnya, the wedding of a 17-year old girl and a middle-aged policeman has put centre-periphery relations and the growing divergence of regional arrangements in Chechnya and the rest of the Russian Federation in the spotlight.

On 30 April, Novaya Gazeta published an article by investigative journalist Elena Milashina about the intentions of a high-ranking policeman – the already married head of the Nozhai-Yurt District Interior Ministry - to wed the girl against her will. The report said that the prospective bride’s family had acquiesced under the threat of violence.

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Ties that Bind: War, History and Power in and around Today’s Russia

By Dr. Kevork Oskanian

It is difficult indeed to overstate the importance of victory day in Russia.  In its solemnity, it is as close to a religious festival as any secular event could be.  The Soviet Union was adept at filling the void left by its Marxist atheism with ritual and symbolism, and, more than on other days of the contemporary calendar, its imprint was still palpable on May 9th, 2015. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

In Crimea, Time for Pressure

By Liana Fix - Associate Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations and Visiting PhD Researcher at the University of Birmingham

March 18 marks the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Within the last year, the situation on the ground has considerably deteriorated, in particular for the Crimean Tatars. After about twenty years of relatively peaceful existence in their homeland, they are once again under pressure. Contrary to what Russia promised the Crimean Tatar community, we are now seeing a crackdown on Tatar political and media organizations (under the pretext of fighting “political extremism”) and mounting harassment of Crimean Tatars. Russia’s annexation of 2014 could well become the “third tragedy” of the Crimean Tatar community – after the Russian conquest of 1783 and Stalin’s mass deportations of 1944.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Nemtsov Murder: Chechen Theories Shouldn't Take Heat Off Putin

By Dr. David White

Despite the detention of five suspects, speculation about who is responsible for the brutal assassination of Russia’s former deputy prime minister and prominent opposition politician Boris Nemtsov continues unabated.

In the immediate aftermath of the murder, we were treated to a range of far-fetched theories as to the likely perpetrators and their motives. And despite incredulity from Nemtsov’s allies, the idea that the group of Chechens now facing charges committed the crime is just as likely as all the others flying around out there.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Boris Nemtsov Murder: Russia has Lost an Opposition Leader of Substance

By Dr. David White

There were several familiar faces missing at the head of the mass protest march in Moscow on Sunday 1 March, when more than 50,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate against Russian actions in Ukraine and to highlight discontent with the worsening economic crisis in the country. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

New Chatham House Paper by Dr. Richard Connolly - Troubled Times: Stagnation, Sanctions and the Prospects for Economic Reform in Russia

  • Russia’s economic performance has been weakening for several years. The simultaneous fall in the price of oil and the Ukraine crisis have merely exacerbated pre-existing tendencies.
  • The combination of stagnant GDP growth and lower oil prices threatens to reduce federal government revenues, but spending commitments are likely to prove hard to trim.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Why Peace in Ukraine Won’t Save the Russian Economy

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande’s push for peace in Moscow has helped fuel optimism about the prospects for Russia’s spluttering economy. On the morning of the meeting, the rouble had strengthened against the dollar and the euro, and both the dollar and rouble-based sections of the Russian stock exchange saw sharp gains.

Unfortunately for those in the Kremlin, however, Russia’s economic woes are so deep-rooted that peace in Ukraine is likely to offer only temporary respite at best.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Seminar: Trouble in the Neighbourhood? The future of the EU's Eastern Partnership

Location: University of Birmingham, Muirhead Tower Room 121
Date: Tuesday 17th February 2015 (18:00-19:30)

Rt Hon John Spellar MP, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister (Labour)

James Carver MEP, European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee (UKIP)

Dr Kataryna Wolczuk, Reader in Politics and International Studies,  CREES, University of Birmingham

Dr Rilka Dragneva-Lewers, Senior Lecturer, CREES, University of Birmingham

Dr Kevork Oskanian, Research Fellow, CREES, University of Birmingham

Chair: Adam Hug, Policy Director, Foreign Policy Centre

Friday, 23 January 2015

Putin's Plan to Fight Recession in Russia also Increases Kremlin's Control of the Economy

The Russian rouble started 2015 in much the same way it finished 2014: badly. After losing nearly 50% of its dollar value between July and the end of the year, the rouble lost a further 7% in January. The primary cause of this continued decline is the falling price of oil: Brent crude has dropped from US$53 dollars per barrel at year end to just under US$48 per barrel, a decline of nearly 10% for the year so far.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Playwright, Prisoner and President: the Life of Vaclav Havel

A review of Michael Zantovsky, Havel: a Life, London: Atlantic Books (2014)

By Tim Haughton

You only really appreciate someone when they have left. The death of Vaclav Havel in December 2011 provoked a week of mourning, warm and generous words from his political foes, and for many ‘perhaps a rediscovery’ of the man who had played so many different roles in his life: playwright, political prisoner and president (p. 14). Michael Zantovsky’s outstanding new biography published a quarter of a century after the Velvet Revolution swept away the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, provides a colourful, well-written and perceptive account of the life, work and impact of Vaclav Havel.