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Vladimir Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

Events this weekend in Russian President Vladimir Putin's sphere of influence serve as a reminder his power: a top political opponent was arrested, an ally in the Czech Republic won re-election, and the leader of Crimea reiterated support for its links with Russia.

Big picture: Each of these instances shows Putin's reach within his own government as well as his ability to exert power in eastern Europe. These are just a few ways Putin counters western influences in eastern Europe, or, what Russia sees as its rightful cultural and historical territory.

  • Putin's main political opponent, Alexei Navalny, was arrested again during anti-election protests this weekend in Russia. Navalny called for the protests against the elections last month when he was banned from running for a previous conviction he says was bogus.
    • Why it matters: Navalany would have been Putin’s only serious contender in the March elections. In 2013 Navalny secured nearly one-third of the vote. If Putin wins, and he almost certainly will, he could be in office until 2024. He’s been serving as either prime minister or president since 2000.
  • The pro-Putin president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, won re-election this Saturday, FT reports. Zeman is a critic of Muslim immigration, was an early supporter of Donald Trump, has called for an end of EU sanctions on Russia, and has proposed a referendum on the Czech Republic leaving the EU.
    • Why it matters: Zeman won out against his political opponent, newcomer Jiri Drahos, who supported improving ties with NATO. This is a win for Putin’s interest in maintaining and enhancing his influence in eastern Europe. This also demonstrates how immigration issues continue to be key in European political campaign messaging.
  • The leader of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said it's “returned to Russia forever,” per NPR’s Lucian Kim. "Crimea will never return to Ukraine, and it's senseless to set any conditions to that end.”
    • Aksyonov said "Anyone who advocates resistance" to Crimea's link with Russia "is advocating bloodshed; of course we can't accept that and will react."
    • Why it matters: Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, a move which the U.S. doesn’t recognize. Aksyonov oversaw the referendum in favor of the annexation, a referendum that was ultimately deemed illegal by many world powers including the U.S. "There's an atmosphere of fear to say what you really think," Nariman Dzhelalov, a leader of the Crimean Tatar minority, told NPR. "Only that small group of people who are completely in love with Putin feels comfortable saying what they think."

Go deeper

"No-code" miracle for startups

Expand chart
Data: Interactive Advertising Bureau; Table: Axios Visuals

The U.S. has reached a tipping point in its shift from the industrial economy — one that relied on the buildout of hardware — to an information economy that relies on the transfer, storage and implementation of data, according to a new report.

Why it matters: This shift towards a data and information-based economy has allowed more businesses to establish themselves and scale quickly and at a very low cost. As such, the number of jobs created by the commercial internet has more than tripled since 2012.

Amazon's small business shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is touting the success of small sellers on its platform through the pandemic — and warning that antitrust legislation could jeopardize that success and blow up its open-marketplace model.

Why it matters: As online shopping became a lifeline for both businesses and consumers during the pandemic, Amazon reaped big benefits, but also saw its regulatory risk grow.

The new cold war panic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The world has seen a power struggle between nuclear powers before, and has seen those countries inch closer to military conflict. But it's never before seen a cold war between two countries as interconnected — with each other and with the rest of the globe — as the U.S. and China.

Why it matters: Escalating antagonism between the world's two superpowers is likely to hinder global cooperation to fight climate change, divert resources to costly arms and tech races, complicate diplomacy for U.S. allies, and victimize Chinese and American citizens living in each other's countries.

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