Sasha Lensky

Sasha Lensky is a pseudonym of a Russian citizen known to The Spectator. He writes anonymously due to censorship laws

How Putin used doublethink to manipulate the Russian election

In many ways, the recent presidential shenanigans in Russia, officially dignified with the word ‘elections’, have become a strange ritual. They’re both utterly predictable in terms of their result and, at the same time a source of anxiety for all concerned. Putin has been in power now for 25 years, and no elections under his

What the rise of Islam means for Putin’s Russia

The term ‘Russians’, which the world likes to use for the 144 million citizens of my country, is often a misleading one. Granted, in the 2020 census, 71 per cent of those surveyed identified themselves with this label, with only three ethnic groups coming in above one per cent: Tatars (3.2 per cent), Chechens (1.14 per cent

War with Russia won’t be what the West expects

Is war coming our way? The warning last month from Admiral Rob Bauer, the chairman of Nato’s Military Committee, indicates as much. ‘Anything can happen at any time’, Bauer said, as he suggested Nato should prepare for a conflict with Russia in the next 20 years. No less alarming – in fact, rather more so

Why hasn’t Russia collapsed?

Following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the calamitous, early missteps of the Russian army, many Western experts fairly crowed over the possibility of Russia disintegrating. ‘It’s high time to prepare for Russia’s collapse,’ ran a typical headline on the Foreign Policy website, while a survey of 167 foreign-policy experts by the

How Vladimir Putin stays in power

With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine well into its attritional phase, Western aid to Kyiv seems to be drying up. No clear strategy at all, it seems, has been found for dealing with the Russian leader. Some hope internal divisions at the Kremlin will lead to a collapse, others that an anti-Ceausescu-style uprising – as

Why Putin doesn’t want to negotiate

Discussion of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia has until recently, among most Western governments, been considered something of a no-go area and a sign of wilting faith. Yet with hopes vanishing that any counter offensive will bring a decisive change in the war, and another, headline-monopolising conflict breaking out in Gaza, this taboo in

Ukraine’s Nato limbo is set to continue

As the Nato summit on international security opens this week in Vilnius, one obvious issue will be the success or otherwise of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Apart from the liberation of a few villages, where are the victories earlier forecast by figures like head of military intelligence Kirill Budanov, who predicted the Ukrainian army would be in Crimea

Why Wagner’s coup failed

When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched, the overall mood among those around me – Russians from a range of ages and social groups – was one of scarcely believable elation, even hope. ‘Judging from the news this morning,’ one man said to me that day, ‘the borders of the Russian Empire will soon

Russian children are being groomed for the war in Ukraine

As we pass the 15-month mark of Russia’s war against Ukraine, it’s clear the Putin government is in a fix. It cannot win this war nor afford to lose or stop it. But with another mobilisation politically risky and tens of thousands of Russian citizens now fallen on the battlefield, it’s evident they will need all the

Russians live in fear of Putin’s dreaded draft

On 9 May, Russia’s wet squib this year of a Victory Day, president Putin addressed his beleaguered troops in Ukraine directly. ‘There is nothing more important now than your combat effort,’ he said. ‘The security of the country rests on you today, the future of our statehood and our people depend on you.’ Readers of

How Russia is weathering the storm of Western sanctions

After war broke out in Ukraine a year ago, amidst a slew of shop closures, sanctioned products and predictions about the ruble falling to rock bottom, there was a wave of panic buying in Russia. Many expected supply chains to fully collapse by the end of 2022 as internal stocks of this and that ran

The budget black comedy that foreshadowed the rise of Putin

‘The truth is with us,’ said Vladimir Putin in a speech after the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson ‘voted to rejoin’ Russia on 30 September. ‘And the power is in truth, and that means we will be victorious.’ Putin’s harping on ‘truth’ – even as he annexed four regions of Ukraine following

Putin is cornered

On the evening of Sunday 11 September, a general alert was announced in nearly all the regions of Ukraine. A mass launch of precision missiles by the Russian Black and Caspian Sea fleets had just been detected. This is not the first occasion in this war on which such an attack has happened. The difference

Beer and loathing: Why Russians loved and hated Gorbachev

A paradox about Mikhail Gorbachev for my generation of Russians – I was seven years old when he became general secretary in 1985 – is that he will be remembered as both liberal and killjoy, an uneasy combination that left him at times making enemies in all directions. The first is easy enough to understand.

The two faces of Vladimir Putin

‘Putin’s Philosopher’ Aleksandr Dugin, self-styled deep thinker and ideological architect of current Russian expansionism, has claimed there are two distinct version of the president. There is a ‘Lunar Putin’ – practical, cautious, a supporter of the capitalist economy and free trade, alert to international opinion. And a ‘Solar Putin’, a messiah, fully embracing his mission

The tide is turning in Russia’s war on Ukraine

Could Russia triumph? There’s a growing sense that, as the months wear on, Ukraine’s resistance is faltering. The West is losing interest in the conflict and the unthinkable is being said: Putin is winning the war on and off the battlefield. The image of countless hordes of Russian troops grinding down the Ukrainian defences with a

The end of the Russian dream

I was born in the USSR in 1978 and was just becoming a teenager as the Soviet Union fell. For a schoolboy this was heady stuff. There was no more talk of ‘Good Old Lenin’ in class, and literature and history sessions suddenly became interesting. For the first time, we openly discussed the Stalinist Terror

Russia’s anti-Putin backlash is gathering strength

The backlash in Russia to Putin’s war is now visibly getting underway. For the first time, the President risks becoming a disappointment to all sides of the political spectrum. Those who advocate for war see his military efforts in Ukraine as flaky and inadequate. Those who oppose it see those same actions as war crimes