Anita L. DeFrantz has her bags packed for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia — but heck, she's had her bags packed for athletic events around the world for the last 40 years, as a competitor and as a member of the International Olympic Committee (currently on the executive board) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (board member).
Russia has barred a U.S. journalist who is critical of President Vladimir Putin for five years, a move that could upset relations with the United States and has echoes of the Cold War. Moscow's treatment of David Satter could fuel concern about freedom of speech before the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, although Putin has tried to appease critics by freeing former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the Pussy Riot protest group in the run-up to the Games.
The European Union has probably never experienced anything like it before: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government pretended to negotiate an association agreement, only to back out at the last minute. EU leaders felt duped; in Moscow, however, the mood was celebratory.
Two suicide bombings in as many days have raised concerns that separatist militants have begun a terrorist campaign in Russia that could stretch into the Winter Olympics in February. Russian authorities and the International Olympic Committee insisted the site of the games, protected by layers of security, is completely safe.
Russia’s recent diplomatic successes in Syria and Iran, together with foreign-policy missteps by US President Barack Obama, have emboldened President Vladimir Putin in his drive to position Russia as capable of challenging American exceptionalism and Western universalism. But Putin’s recent address to Russia’s Federal Assembly was more a reflection of his resentment of Russia’s geopolitical marginalization than a battle cry from a rising empire.
Greenpeace activists released following an amnesty over their eye-catching protest in the Russian Arctic say they aren't giving up the fight. As members of the 30-strong Greenpeace crew arrested for protesting outside an oil rig arrived home from Russia, messages of defiance poured forth in interviews and statements released by local branches of the environmental group.
The two remaining imprisoned Pussy Riot members were released from prison Monday under Russia’s new amnesty law. The pair slammed the move, and accused President Vladimir Putin of freeing them as a public relations effort meant to smooth out international human rights criticisms ahead of the winter Olympics.
It was an awkward debate for Russia’s dissidents and the Western politicians who support them. Should they thank President Vladimir Putin for the massive amnesty that freed Russia’s most famous political prisoners over the past week? Or was the attempt to whitewash Russia’s record on human rights in time for the Olympic Games in Sochi too brazen to deserve any gratitude?