Letter From the Editors

When Yury Shevchuk, leader of the Russian rock band DDT, performed a concert in Ufa, he may have gotten away with an unsavory remark about a certain part of Putin’s body (see more details in the Russian Federation section), but he now faces a fine of 50,000 rubles over antiwar remarks he made on the same occasion. Maria Litvinova writes: “Right after the concert, police came into his dressing room and wrote up a report on charges of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.”

Russian politicians are being more circumspect than Shevchuk in their public statements as regional elections approach. Experts do not expect the nationwide voting to bring any great surprises, controversies, or even much of the notorious fraud that has plagued previous elections – because most parties and individual candidates are reluctant to say anything against the “special operation” in Ukraine. In the latter country, however, a certain kind of election campaign is heating up like mad.

Separatist regions in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye Provinces are in various stages of organizing referendums on whether they wish to join the Russian Federation. Andrei Pertsev reports that Moscow had long planned to stage these plebiscites as a step toward annexing captured Ukrainian territory. The Kremlin originally hoped to time them to coincide with the Russian regional elections on Sept. 11, but, according to Pertsev: “Moscow’s plan hinged on its troops and proxies in the self-proclaimed DPR capturing all of Donetsk Province before this date. According to Meduza’s analysis, Russia has hardly advanced in the province in the past month and only controls about 60% of its territory.” Even so, the Kremlin is loath to postpone the referendums, especially since “the Russian-installed authorities in occupied territories of Ukraine have already begun making formal preparations and have even put up public announcements on billboards.”

The actual referendums might not take place until winter, but Russian politicians are doing their best to make life more bearable in battle-torn Ukraine in the meantime. Afanasy Sborov reports in Kommersant: “Deputies of all State Duma factions are actively visiting the Donetsk Basin during the parliamentary recess, as speaker Vyacheslav Volodin previously called on them to do. Assistance to residents of the DPR and LPR is being reported most by United Russia. . . . In addition to sending humanitarian shipments, politicians are also pursuing their party interests: They have been issuing party [membership] cards in the republics and organizing the work of party structures, thus far unofficially.”

Moscow is apparently not the only superpower trying to influence elections in another country. A group of Georgian members of parliament has written an open letter criticizing the US Embassy in Tbilisi for trying to take complete control over Georgian politics. For this purpose, the lawmakers say, Washington is seeking regime change, undermining the ruling Georgian Dream party and supporting Mikhail Saakashvili’s party, the National Movement (now in the opposition), to pull Georgia into another war with Russia.

Electoral politics within the US itself are at least as contentious. That said, Russian analysts interviewed by Izvestia are fairly certain that the Republican Party will retake at least one, if not both, houses of Congress in the midterm elections. The main reasons they cite for the Democrats losing ground are President Biden’s withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the sanctions war against Russia, which has hit ordinary Americans hard with high fuel prices and general inflation. Too bad the blue party can’t find an all-encompassing cause to rally its supporters. Saving the planet from climate change doesn’t seem to be enough. What about claiming land from a neighboring country? Democrat James Polk ran a successful campaign of territorial expansion in 1844, then the US annexed Texas the following year. Of course, no civilized nation would try such a thing in this day and age, right?