The big picture

As countries line up for Russia's vaccine, not everyone is buying it

It's 92% effective, according to unconfirmed data.

Nov 12, 2020 - World
Alexei Navalny in first interview: Putin was behind Novichok poisoning

"I have no other explanation for what happened."

Oct 1, 2020 - World
The tangled web of Russia's Taliban support

Suspected Russian support of the Taliban goes all the way back to the Obama administration.

Jul 8, 2020 - World
Russians back reforms that could let Putin rule through 2036, officials say

It's the most significant reform package since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Jul 1, 2020 - World
20 Years of Putin: Tracing his rise from KGB to Kremlin

Part 1 of an Axios special report focuses on his rise, his early years and his escalating antagonism with the West.

Updated Dec 31, 2019 - World

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8 hours ago - World

Ukraine, Russia to expel diplomats amid heightened tensions

A Ukrainian flag outside the Ukrainian Consulate General building in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo: Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images

Russia on Saturday said it would expel a Ukrainian diplomat it accused of trying to obtain classified information, prompting Ukraine to say it would do the same to a Russian diplomat, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: The tit-for-tat expulsions come amid heightened tensions between the two countries over Russia's build-up of military personnel and equipment on Ukraine's eastern border where Ukrainian soldiers are fighting Kremlin-back separatist troops.

12 hours ago - World

Alexei Navalny at risk of kidney failure due to hunger strike

Alexei Navalny. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces possible kidney failure as he continues his multi-week hunger strike, a medical trade union told Reuters on Saturday.

What they're saying: "His condition is indeed critical ... His potassium is high and he has other high readings which indicate that his kidneys may soon fail. This would lead to severe pathology and cardiac arrest may occur," Alexandra Zakharova, a representative for the Doctors Alliance trade union, told Reuters.

Updated Apr 16, 2021 - World

Russia to expel 10 U.S diplomats, ban top Biden officials in response to sanctions

Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Russia will expel 10 U.S. diplomats and add eight current and former U.S. officials to its no-entry list in retaliation for sanctions that the Biden administration leveled at Moscow on Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

Why it matters: The measures come after the U.S. said it would expel 10 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover, as part of a broad package of sanctions retaliating against the SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and Russia's interference in the 2020 election.

Biden's Russian sanctions likely to achieve little

President Biden announces new sanctions against Russia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Despite bold talk from top administration officials, there's little reason to think the Russia sanctions package President Biden announced Thursday will do anything to alter Russian President Vladimir Putin's behavior or calculus.

Why it matters: While it's true some elements of the package — namely, the targeting of Russia's sovereign debt — represent significant punitive measures against Moscow, it leaves plenty of wiggle room for the Russian president.

Intel officials have "low to moderate" confidence in reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops

U.S. troops near Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2014. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

U.S. intelligence officials have "low to moderate confidence" in reports that surfaced last year that Russia had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, according to The Guardian.

Why it matters: The news comes as the Biden administration unveiled a spate of sanctions against Russian officials and entities on Thursday. The bounty reports, however, were not a factor in the decision to pass sanctions.

Updated Apr 15, 2021 - World

U.S. imposes sweeping sanctions targeting Russian economy

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The Biden administration announced it will sanction dozens of Russian officials and entities, expel 10 diplomats from the U.S., and set new restrictions on buying Russian sovereign debt in response to the massive SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and interference in the 2020 election.

Why it matters: The sweeping acts of retaliation are aimed at imposing heavy economic costs on Russia, after years of sanctions that have failed to deter an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian President Vladimir Putin.

Apr 15, 2021 - World

U.S. says Manafort associate passed sensitive polling data to Russian intelligence


The U.S. government has sanctioned Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant indicted in the Mueller investigation in 2018, for carrying out election influence operations on behalf of Russian intelligence services.

The big picture: The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on 2016 Russian election interference assessed that Kilimnik, who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as a lobbyist for the pro-Russia president of Ukraine, is a Russian intelligence officer.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated Apr 13, 2021 - World

Biden proposes summit, raises Ukraine escalation in call with Putin

Photo: Alexey Nikolsky/AFP via Getty

President Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and proposed that they meet for a summit "in a third country in the coming months," according to the White House.

Why it matters: The call comes amid a Russian build-up on Ukraine's borders, and after Putin reacted furiously to an interview in which Biden agreed that the Russian president was a "killer."

Scoop: Biden eyes Russia adviser criticized as soft on Kremlin

Photo: Alexander Shcherbak\TASS via Getty Images

President Biden is considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director on the National Security Council, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Why it matters: Rojansky has been praised for his scholarship on Russia and is frequently cited in U.S. media for his expert commentary. But his work has drawn criticism — including in a 2018 open letter from Ukrainian alumni of Kennan that blasted the think tank he runs as an "unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference."

Dave Lawler, author of World
Apr 8, 2021 - World

Russian troops mass near Ukraine's border, raising threat of wider war

Zelensky visits the troops in Donbas. Photo: Presidency of Ukraine Handout via Getty Images

The simmering conflict in Eastern Ukraine has threatened to boil over the past few days, with Russia massing troops near the border and pro-Kremlin media raising the specter of war.

Why it matters: U.S. European Command went into high alert in light of the Russian movements, which some experts speculated could presage an active Russian military intervention in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists for seven years.

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