Anna Arutunyan

Anna Arutunyan is a Russian-American writer and a global fellow at the Wilson Center. She is the author of The Putin Mystique: Inside Russia’s Power Cult and Hybrid Warriors

Navalny showed there is a better Russia

Everything was angular about him: his brilliant smile, the choppy movements of his hands as he spoke, the western mannerisms he had picked up abroad at Yale. But it was the smile that really stood out. Alexei Navalny didn’t know me, probably didn’t trust me, but his smile was a signal of trust – an open sincerity I’d never seen among

Putin’s secret weapon is fragility

As the dust settles on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny that wasn’t, the consensus is clear: Vladimir Putin has been left weakened and vulnerable. Rebellions like this historically spell the beginning of the end of Russian authoritarian regimes, and observers are watching excitedly for signs of more vultures circling the Kremlin. But Putin’s weakness might, conversely, be

Who is running Russia while Putin plays war? 

As the war in Ukraine spilled into Russian territory, with shelling in the Russian city of Belgorod, President Vladimir Putin was busy explaining that he ‘sleeps like a normal person’ during an online meeting with families to honour Children’s day. That Putin mentioned his healthy sleeping pattern, without discussing the ongoing Ukrainian incursion into Belgorod – where

Russian patriotism isn’t what Putin thinks it is

With Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine showing no signs of reaching a conclusion, a recent study by the country’s main state-run pollster, VTsIOM, revealed that 91 per cent of Russians consider themselves patriots. On the face of it, these numbers seem to vindicate two camps with a strikingly similar worldview. On the one hand, there

The ‘sham subculture’ sparking panic in the Kremlin

Their two countries may be at war, but Russian and Ukrainian police have a common and apparently formidable enemy. That is, judging by their efforts to infiltrate groups of 13- to 17-year-old kids sporting long black hair and hoodies emblazoned with a picture of a spider on the back. The so-called PMC Ryodan – a

Can Ukraine ever win over Crimea and the Donbas?

It’s a topic that few are willing to talk about, but at some point – and especially if it is to get the victory it seeks – Ukraine will have to confront a looming problem: what to do with millions of its own citizens who currently have closer ties to Russia than they do to

Why Putin needs Prigozhin

It’s been a tense couple of weeks for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the businessman and founder the of Wagner Group of mercenaries. Russian troops and Prigozhin’s mercenaries have been closing in on the strategic town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, capturing territories around it. On 10 January, Prigozhin boasted that his forces had ‘taken control’ of Soledar,

Putin is running out of options – and shopping for more

As Vladimir Putin geared up to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad, all the chatter pointed to a second wave of mobilisation to prop up Russian troops struggling to hold on to occupied Ukrainian territories. But the Russian president announced no such thing. Instead, addressing veterans and workers at

Latvia’s Russian media crackdown will delight Putin

When Russia was preparing to annex Crimea in the late winter of 2014, the newly-appointed head of the Russian agency that published our newspaper, the Moscow News, laid down some new rules. The age of disinterested, objective reporting was over. Our job, this Kremlin-picked patriotic zealot told staff, was to love the Motherland. We all resigned.

The best way to stop Russian trolls is to ignore them

Almost from the moment the polls closed in the 2016 US presidential contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, accusations emerged of Russian interference in the election. Now it appears to have been confirmed from the horse’s mouth: Russian trolls recruited by the Putin-linked businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin have meddled in multiple US elections. Prigozhin, known

Putin’s acolytes are boxing him in

As Russia continues to get routed in eastern Ukraine – losing territory, machinery and personnel to an emboldened Ukrainian counteroffensive – infighting has intensified in the Kremlin. Looking for someone to blame, the various factions are increasingly attacking Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Ministry, and seeking an escalation of hostilities in Ukraine.  When Russia lost the