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The Year Ahead 2020

Russia Is Not Putin

After receiving a scare in regional elections in 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin took no chances in 2019, bringing to bear the full power of the state against opposition candidates in Moscow's regional-level election. Putin knows that if given the chance, Russian voters will reject him and his United Russia party.

MOSCOW – Russia is not synonymous with President Vladimir Putin, nor with his United Russia party, nor with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of a private military company carrying out the Kremlin’s wishes in Syria and eastern Ukraine. Rather, Russia is embodied by its 146 million citizens, most of whom just want to live in a civilized world, and in a country where freedom and human rights are respected and upheld by credible independent institutions.

The real voice of Russia often goes unheard, both within the country and abroad. Outside observers might think that the current government has the support of the population. But it isn’t so. The mass protests in Moscow and other cities this past summer show that while formal power remains in the hands of Putin and his party, Russians are ready to assert their rights and demand democracy.

On the world stage, Putin falsely claims to wage his hybrid wars in our name. Yet there is never any formal declaration of war. And the Kremlin consistently denies that it is conducting military operations in Ukraine, because it knows that the Russian military’s presence in Donbas and Crimea is illegal.

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