How serious is President Dmitry Medvedev about repairing Russia's corrupt courts? A trial opening this week in Moscow could be a key test. Former Yukos oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed in 2004 on tax-evasion charges after vexing the Kremlin by supporting opposition groups, faces new charges of stealing 350 million tons of oil—an amount, his lawyers point out, that's greater than Yukos's entire production.
To judge from the mating signals coming from both sides, you'd think a major thaw in U.S.-Russia relations was imminent. Barack Obama backpedaled on his predecessor's vow to put a missile defense system near the Russian border, and Vice President Joe Biden recently called for "pushing the reset button" in dealings with Moscow, which had also been strained by America's support of NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine.
Sashenka is the rich, spirited daughter of a Jewish industrialist, growing up in Petrograd during the First World War. She's also a revolutionary who reads Marx after lights-out at the Smolny Institute for Young Noblewomen."Sashenka," Simon Sebag Montefiore's first novel, begins on the last day of winter term, as Sashenka hurries out of classes to her waiting nanny—and to the secret police who are there to arrest her as a subversive.
The last time Russia cut off gas to Ukraine, in 2006, energy prices were soaring, and with them the Kremlin's ambitions. The then President Vladimir Putin vowed to use the country's vast gas reserves to make it into an "energy superpower." Now the tables have turned.
Russia's ruble and its stock market have been sliding since June—down 30 and 70 percent, respectively. Still, the state-controlled media have stuck to the Kremlin line that the economy is doing just fine (the word "crisis" was even banned by producers at one television channel).
Is the Kremlin turning dovish in its most recent confrontation with the West? After two months of high tensions following Russia's invasion of Georgia, there are signs that President Dmitry Medvedev is finally trying to rebuild diplomatic bridges.Russia's already agreed to pull back from self-declared "buffer zones" around the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and last week it allowed 200 EU observers to start supervising that withdrawal.
Under Vladimir Putin, it seemed, no Kremlin ploy could shake world confidence in Russian markets. The 2004 jailing of tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on politically motivated charges sent the market into a swoon, but recovery was swift as oil prices rose.
What if a Turkish court does ban the ruling party, prime minister and president?