Letter From the Editors: April 17 - 23, 2017

Author: Matthew Larson

Hot Seats and Cold Shoulders.

Events this week have some in the hot seat and others getting the cold shoulder. The recent use of chemical agents in Syria is still generating competing versions of what happened in Khan Sheikhoun. Gevorg Mirzayan contends that Syrian President Bashar Assad had no rational motive for using chemical weapons and that the rebels had every reason to flip the chessboard by staging a provocation. He and Nezavisimaya gazeta make things hot for the US and the West, writing that Western versions of the attack are based on unsubstantiated reports and false claims that are being touted as the gospel truth by the Western media.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had similar gripes about the media in a meeting with Vladimir Putin, his first audience with the Russian leader since media reports that Chechen law enforcement has been targeting members of the LGBT community in Chechnya. But what should have been a hot-seat meeting for Kadyrov ended with Putin once again showing him support. In contrast to Putin’s conciliatory tone with the Chechen leader, journalist Sergei Sokolov takes Chechen officials to task, writing that federal officials are not doing enough to dispel the notion that Kadyrov and Chechnya are above the law.

Nor is the Kremlin dispelling speculation about Putin’s political future. Uncertainty about the president’s plans for the 2018 presidential election is causing the Russian elite to give each other the cold shoulder as they vie for political capital in post-Putin Russia. During a planning meeting for the 2017 Victory Day parade, an inter-elite struggle broke out in full color right in front of Putin, with officials trading accusations of disloyalty to the president. Tatyana Stanovaya writes that the elite are currently in a state of paralysis as they look for cues about Putin’s future.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia foundation is trying to make that future ...

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