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The media battle for hearts and minds in Russia and Central Asia

Does public opinion matter to authoritarian leaders? Just ask Vladimir Putin. Putin has shown great care in the past several months to hide the deaths of Russian soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine, where he has repeatedly promised that no Russian soldiers are being ordered to fight, in the face of a rising death count. Loved ones and others who attempt to investigate, and in some cases to publicize, these deaths are told to be quiet if they know what’s good for them. Putin’s fear that those opposed to him could sway the public against him have likewise been responsible for the long trail of killings of media and opposition figures over the years, as well as for yesterday’s conviction on trumped up charges of “money laundering” of the Navalny brothers, who have outspokenly attempted to expose the corruption surrounding Putin.