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President Vladimir Putin during a lunch with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow at the Bocharov Ruchei residence. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's annexation of Crimea propelled President Vladimir Putin's popularity to stratospheric highs — up to 80% — where it hovered for years. Now, economic stagnation and unpopular policies such as a value-added tax hike and, critically, pension reform have dragged his ratings back down. Recent polling shows his approval down to the neighborhood of 60%.

Why it matters: Putin is still a popular leader by international standards, though his approval has dropped back to pre-Crimea levels — a time when he faced serious political protest. Unlike in 2012, however, Putin will find it difficult to pin the economic sources of the decline on a foreign plot, and, absent the right opportunity abroad, will struggle to divert the Russian populace's increasing dissatisfaction with its stagnant fortunes.

Aaron Schwartzbaum founded and writes a column for BMB Russia, a daily news brief from the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Go deeper

Prosecutor: Fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. was "justified"

Khalil Ferebee (C), the son of Andrew Brown Jr., and attorneys Bakari Sellers (L) and Harry Daniel (R) at a May 11 news conference in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A North Carolina prosecutor said Tuesday that the death of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies last month, was "tragic" but "justified," due to the immediate threat officers believed Brown posed.

Why it matters: The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown's death. Police in Elizabeth City shot him five times, including in the back of his head, according to an independent autopsy report released by family attorneys last month.

McCarthy comes out against bipartisan deal on Jan. 6 commission

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will oppose a bipartisan deal announced last week that would form a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, his office announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: McCarthy's opposition to the deal, which was negotiated by the top Republican and Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, underscores the internal divisions that continue to plague the GOP in the wake of Jan. 6.

2 hours ago - World

Beijing's antitrust push poses a problem for Western regulators

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government's anti-monopoly machinery presents a major challenge to U.S. and European regulators, a new book argues.

Why it matters: China's huge markets are attracting investment from multinational corporations and shaping the behavior of its own globe-trotting companies — giving international heft to the country's idiosyncratic antitrust enforcement and putting it on a collision course with Western-style regulation.