Russia Digest 6/21
Top stories I'm keeping an eye on
1. Globally Putin's approval rate in the world has collapsed to a historic low
The level of confidence in the policies of Vladimir Putin has collapsed to a historic low, according to a Pew Research study conducted in 18 countries around the world.
90% of those polled said they did not believe in Putin's ability to do the right thing in international affairs. Confidence in the Russian president has been falling for 20 years, and in 2022 it hit the "bottom" in each of the countries studied Pew notes.
Putin fell the lowest in the eyes of the people of Poland, where only 2% of respondents declared their trust in him. In Sweden, the Russian president scored 4%, in Spain and South Korea - 5%, in the USA and Japan - 6%, in Australia - 7%, in the UK - 9%, in Canada, France, Italy, and Germany - 10-14% , in Israel - 16%.
Greece has become a hotbed of “Putinism” in the European Union, where 27% have a positive opinion of Putin, including every second supporter of the right-wing nationalist party “Greek Solution”.
The far-right remains an enclave for remnants of public opinion about Putin: Alternative for Germany, Forum for Democracy (Netherlands), Swedish Democrats, and others. Although in some countries and in these groups, support for the Russian president is rapidly dwindling, Pew notes: for example, in Sweden - from 30% to 8% during the year.
Public opinion about the country is also collapsing, the study showed: 85% of respondents expressed a negative attitude towards Russia. And this is also the "bottom" for the entire time of observations. via Moscow Times
The U.S. think tank said in its latest assessment that despite Russia's measured gains south of Lysychansk on June 22, Russian forces are unlikely to quickly gain full control of the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk area. Russian forces also continued street fights within Sievierodonetsk, presumably for control of the industrial zone. via Institute for the Study of War
3. Finns are ready to fight any Russian attack, says armed forces chief
Finland has prepared for decades for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance should one occur, its armed forces chief has said.
The Nordic country has built up a substantial arsenal. But aside from the military hardware, Gen Timo Kivinen said, a crucial factor is that Finns would be motivated to fight.
“The most important line of defence is between one’s ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment,” Kivinen said in an interview. via The Guardian
4. NATO Member Estonia Says It’s Targeted by Russian Missile Simulations
Russia is currently conducting military exercises with simulated missile attacks against Estonia, the Baltic nation said, warning of escalating tensions between a Moscow and a front-line NATO member.
Estonia’s Defense Ministry said that provocative behavior has intensified on Estonia’s border with Russia ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s summit scheduled for next week in Madrid, according to a response to emailed questions on Tuesday. via Bloomberg
5. Jan. 6 probe expands with fresh subpoenas in multiple states
Federal agents investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday dropped subpoenas on people in multiple locations, widening the probe of how political activists supporting President Donald Trump tried to use invalid electors to thwart Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory.
Agents conducted court-authorized law enforcement activity Wednesday morning at different locations, FBI officials confirmed to The Washington Post. One was the home of Brad Carver, a Georgia lawyer who allegedly signed a document claiming to be a Trump elector. The other was the Virginia home of Thomas Lane, who worked on the Trump campaign’s efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. The FBI officials did not identify the people associated with those addresses, but public records list each of the locations as the home addresses of the men.
Among those who received a subpoena Wednesday was David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, who served as a Trump elector in that state, people familiar with the investigation said. Shafer’s lawyer declined to comment.
Separately, at least some of the would-be Trump electors in Michigan received subpoenas, according to a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. But it was not immediately clear whether that activity was related to a federal probe or a state-level criminal inquiry. via Washington Post
Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for the January 6th committee hearing
6. How a Russian investigative reporter found out he was a Kremlin target
Russia’s investigative journalists are no stranger to pressure from the Kremlin. But for Andrei Soldatov, what has happened to him after the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been an alarming escalation.
At the start of June, Soldatov, a journalist who c0-founded the investigative website Agentura.ru, said he began getting text messages from his Russian bank demanding he pay huge government fines. With no explanation, Soldatov assumed it was a phishing attack — a regular hazard in his line of work. But then another bank got in contact to say that his assets were being frozen, he said.
This bank provided the number of a criminal case against Soldatov. The case had opened on March 17, though Soldatov said no one had told him. It accused the 46-year-old journalist of a felony crime: Spreading “fake news” about the Russian Army.
“I didn’t understand which law enforcement agency started the criminal case against me. I got no official warnings from the government. No messages. No calls. No emails. Just these text messages from my bank,” Soldatov told me in a phone call from London, where he has lived since 2020.
The authorities had issued fines worth $80,000 for each of his bank accounts, he told me. They were able to seize Soldatov’s remaining savings in Russia. Even his old car, an unremarkable 1999 Opel Astra, was taken. The journalist soon found out he had been added to both Russia’s domestic and international wanted lists, meaning that he would be immediately arrested if he returned to Russia. Soldatov’s lawyers advised him that he could face arrest if he travels to a country on friendly terms with Russia, such as Turkey or Hungary. via Washington Post
We did an episode with Andrei Soldatov recently where he discussed the divisions inside Russian security services
7. Biden Pushes Congress for Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday
With fuel prices near record highs, President Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax and give Americans “just a little bit of breathing room,” even as the proposal faced dim prospects on Capitol Hill.
In a speech from the White House, Mr. Biden asked Congress to lift the federal taxes — about 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel — through the end of September, shortly before the fall midterm elections. The president also asked states to suspend their own gas taxes, hoping to alleviate the economic pain that has contributed to his diminishing popularity.
“I fully understand that the gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem,” Mr. Biden said. “But it will provide families some immediate relief. Just a little bit of breathing room as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.” via NYT
8. Keeping an eye on polio discovered in Britain, anthrax case in Russia, and monkeypox global spread:
Polio found in U.K. for the first time in nearly 40 years. Here's what it means
For the first time in nearly 40 years, health officials in the U.K. have identified a likely outbreak of polio in London.
So far, there have been no cases of polio detected directly in the U.K. But instead, scientists have discovered the outbreak through an indirect route. They've found multiple versions of the virus in sewage water, the U.K. Health Security Agency said Wednesday in a press release.
The risk to the general public is extremely low, the agency said, because the vast majority of people in Britain are vaccinated against polio during childhood – and therefore protected against infection.
But the agency encourages anyone not fully immunized to schedule an appointment right away. via NPR