(Image: Tass/Getty Images)
The Russian election and the rise of Putin’s young technocrats (£)
Whenever Anton Alikhanov looks up from his desk in the governor’s office in Kaliningrad, he sees a bright green A4 folder hanging on the wall. President Vladimir Putin brought the file, bursting with petitions he received from Kaliningrad residents, during his first visit in August to the Russian enclave since appointing Mr Alikhanov to run it.
“It hangs there, framed and under glass, as a reminder of the essence of our job,” he says. “Work — that’s the green folder.”
For Mr Alikhanov, it makes sense to project a single-minded focus on the tasks set by the president. Upon his appointment as Russia’s youngest-ever provincial chief at the age of 30 in October 2016, he joined the breed of fresh-faced new administrators Mr Putin is installing to prepare the country for an eventual political transition, when the president finally decides to stand down. (Read more)
Slovakia journalist: Prime Minister Fico replaced amid scandal
Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico has resigned after the murder of a journalist sparked a political scandal.
President Andrej Kiska said he would ask Deputy Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini to form a new government.
Mr Fico had offered to resign on Wednesday if the ruling coalition was allowed to finish its term.
The death of reporter Jan Kuciak has shone a spotlight on corruption in Slovakia, prompting nationwide protests. (Read more)
Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach
Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison
The data analytics firm that worked with Donald Trump’s election team and the winning Brexit campaign harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.
A whistleblower has revealed to the Observer how Cambridge Analytica – a company owned by the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and headed at the time by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon – used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements.
Christopher Wylie, who worked with a Cambridge University academic to obtain the data, told the Observer: “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on.” (Read more)
May to consider ‘next steps’ after Russia expels 23 British diplomats (£)
Thomas Conlin and Sebastian Mann
Theresa May has said that the UK and its allies will “consider our next steps” after Russia moved to expel 23 British diplomats amid an escalating row over the nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter.
The prime minister insisted that the tit-for-tat reaction to her measures after the use of a chemical weapon on Sergei and Yulia Skripal did not “change the facts” and that she regarded Russia as responsible.
Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum, Mrs May said the government had “anticipated” a similar response to her action earlier this week to expel 23 Russian diplomats from London.
She said: “In light of their previous behaviour we anticipated a response of this kind and we will consider our next steps in the coming days alongside our allies and partners. (Read more)
Human Rights Are Not Enough
In 1981, the playwright Zdena Tominová, on an extended visit to the West from her home in communist Czechoslovakia, traveled to Dublin to give a lecture. A critic of her country’s political regime, she was the spokesperson for Charter 77, one of the first dissident organizations to turn human rights into an international rallying cry.
Tominová, however, surprised the crowd. She explained that, growing up as a beneficiary of the state’s communist policies, she felt grateful for the ideals of her youth and their politics of material equality. “All of a sudden,” she remembered of the leveling of classes she witnessed as a child, “I was not underprivileged and could do everything.” This was striking, coming from a woman who’d seen the suppression of the Prague Spring reforms in 1968 and who’d had her head pounded into the pavement for her membership in Charter 77. (Read more)