How the international media covered the Russo-Ukrainian war, September 22

Sasha Sverdlova

The New York Times published an interactive article about digital repression in Russia. The publication analyzed more than 160,000 cache files of the Roskomnadzor office in Bashkortostan, which made it possible to create an idea of ​​how digital censorship works in the Russian Federation. The purpose of the departmentʼs work is to search for and track dissent and suppress independent information everywhere in Russia. Since its creation in 2008, Roskomnadzor has become an important tool of Putinʼs repression and helped strengthen the authoritarian regime. Based on documents leaked by pro-Ukrainian hackers, NYT writes that Roskomnadzor is not just a regulator, but a full-fledged intelligence agency that monitors digital platforms. Currently, the list of sites blocked by Roskomnadzor contains more than 1.2 million URLs and is constantly growing. In 2019, the department implemented an automated censorship system that all Internet providers are required to install, and the inspectorate conducted on-site inspections to ensure that the equipment was installed correctly. Moreover, Roskomnadzor actively cooperates with the FSB, helping domestic intelligence to identify and prosecute oppositionists, activists, and the media, the article says. As can be seen from the leaked documents, most of the analysis is done manually, and the reports are sent directly to the FSB, bypassing local authorities. Thus, Roskomnadzor is one of the elements of the parallel structure of power in Russia. The NYT also writes about the departmentʼs special interest in the oppositionist Navalny and his team, and about the strengthening of surveillance activities with the beginning of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Economist writes about Indiaʼs position on the Russian-Ukrainian war, and in particular about Putinʼs meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Samarkand. During the more than six months of full-scale war in Ukraine, India remained neutral, and the country also refrained from supporting UN resolutions condemning the crackdown. The Russian mass media presented this position as support for Putin, the article says. At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Modi instead publicly criticized Putin for military aggression, to which Putin promised to do everything possible to end the conflict. It is unlikely that this public speech is a sign of a break in relations between India and the Russian Federation, the newspaper writes, because together with China, India has become the largest buyer of Russian oil. At the same time, there are many reasons why India should not focus only on relations with the Russian Federation. First, India buys weapons from the West, so it will not move away from it either. In addition, the actions of the Russian Federation led to fluctuations in the prices of food products and energy carriers, which causes problems for both India and China. Putinʼs decision to mobilize reservists is evidence of his weakness, and strong leaders "hate losers," the newspaper writes. Finally, India gained access to the Central Asian republics through its ties with the USSR, and Russia recently lobbied for Indiaʼs inclusion in the SCO. But now the Kremlinʼs attention is focused on Ukraine, and the Russian Federation is losing ground in Central Asia, and therefore in India. It is interesting that China is gaining influence in the region: for example, on the way to Samarkand, Xi Jinping met with the president of Kazakhstan, whom he assured of full support for the countryʼs independence and sovereignty.

Anne Applebaum writes about the chaos in the Kremlin in an essay for The Atlantic. The fact that the Russian president planned a big speech one evening and then simply disappeared until the next morning shows the chaos, disorder and crisis in the Kremlin, Applebaum writes. The content of Putinʼs speech did not come as a surprise, because plans for referendums in the occupied territories and nuclear threats have been heard by Kremlin propagandists for a long time. Covert mobilization has been going on for months. Repeating these plans out loud are not the actions of a strong leader who is confident in the results of an unleashed war, the author believes. Maybe Putin is nervous because he knows he can lose everything. The prospect of Russiaʼs defeat also means the loss of support from allies who stuck to Putin only as long as they believed in his victory. In addition, there are signs that Putin is losing support at home as well ― both from celebrities like Alla Pugacheva and from nationalist authorities who criticize the military failures of the Russian army. The announcement of mobilization is likely to cause discontent among wider groups of people. At the same time, it is clear from the speech and the legal changes that the crisis in the Russian army is both material and technical and related to the decline in morale. The new punishments for "mutiny" and "theft in uniform" say something, Applebaum writes. And everything what Putin is doing is an attempt to stop this decline, the author concludes.