Christopher Booth

Christopher Booth is a former BBC Moscow bureau chief

Remembering Gorbachev

In early January 1997, I met my boyhood hero. It was in the grounds of his wintry dacha outside Moscow. A man in late middle age, though still sprightly, he wore a padded anorak against the cold and a dark patterned scarf. Snow lay fat on the bony branches, with more softly falling. His boots

Can Moldova resist Russia’s embrace?

At the Cathedral of the Nativity, in the middle of Moldova’s capital Chisinau, many of those bowed in prayer before the icons are visitors to the country. Few among them know how long they must stay. The orthodox liturgy plays out across the surrounding park through loudspeakers, tempering thundery late August heat with the surging

Do ‘ordinary Russians’ support the war?

There was a whiteboard in the BBC Baghdad bureau for noting down phrases we hoped to ban from the airwaves. It had nothing to do with political correctness or self-censorship. This was all about self-improvement. The list of words was titled ‘Not Martha Gellhorn’, in honour of the veteran war reporter who wrote so well –

Putin’s cult of war

This idolisation of the Soviet military is Russia’s modern tragedy. Not least because it is crucial to Putin’s way of controlling the country. Russians are prodded to believe in a golden thread linking the achievements of an unsullied Red Army with what their soldiers are perpetrating in Ukraine today. This is why it was entirely

Is Putin in pain?

Is Vladimir Putin in pain? Until now, there has been plenty of chatter about the wellbeing of his minister of defence, Sergei Shoigu. Before the war, this veteran political survivor from the Yeltsin era was famous for being photographed on manly Siberian expeditions with his new patron, the bare-chested saviour of ‘All the Russias’. Putin

Why are elite Russian musicians backing Putin?

A world away from the stupendous horror perpetrated by Russian forces in Bucha and Kramatorsk, a parallel conflict is being grittily fought in quite other theatres. La Scala and The Metropolitan Opera are two of them. Valery Gergiev, Vladimir Putin’s most favoured conductor, is at the heart of the crossfire. His overseas contracts went up

Russia’s failure to communicate

‘So you’ve got one, right, Chris?’ Lev Lvovich leaned in closer, and his beery breath was warm and damp on my face. ‘It’s all OK,’ he reassured me with a slur. ‘We’re friends. You can tell me!’ It was the middle of the evening, already long dark, and Lev and I were playing a drunken

Russia’s ‘denazification’ project is only just beginning

Truth, infamously, is the first casualty of war. But the truth, in modern Russia, was critically wounded before it got anywhere close to the staging grounds, let alone the battlefield. And still the disinformation project limps on. The most recent and blatant example of the Kremlin’s communications modus operandi is its instant write-off as ‘fake’

The true story about Russian lying

We were having a few drinks in a rented flat in the centre of Grozny in late 1994. A bunch of foreign reporters, including myself, who were usually based in Moscow, had been sent to check out the strange conflict flickering in Chechnya. It was late at night. The room was full of fag smoke. Someone played a

Is this Putin’s ‘off ramp’ out of Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin will soon have to select the version of defeat that suits him best. His plan A – a lightning quick invasion, followed by installing a government in Kiev, then horse trading with the effete and corrupt West – has failed entirely. To that extent, he has already lost. For now, Putin has applied

It doesn’t matter if Putin is mad

Mike Tyson put it simply: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’. And Vladimir Putin has just experienced a blistering one-two: fierce resistance on the battlefield, trashing his plans for blitzkrieg, followed by the rabbit punch of international sanctions that will soon rock the whole of Russian society. ‘Putinism’ is not