Eurovision 2017 has become yet another stage for the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. But Russia's abstention from this year's edition actually highlights how much the competition – and engagement with Western culture – matters to the Russian public.
After several years of economic hardship and international pressure over its annexation of Crimea, Russia may see its lot improve next year. But most are skeptical of the possibility of lasting change.
There is little optimism in Russia that there could be a serious reconciliation between Washington and Moscow, even if Donald Trump is in the White House. But if it happened, this is what Russian analysts say it would have to entail.
Pinning down specific Russian responsibility for hacking incidents is complicated by Russia's cybersecurity model. Most of the IT expertise lies in the private sector, and the Kremlin itself is surprisingly not tech-savvy.
The war of words over Syria – including accusations of Russian war crimes in Aleppo – has relations between Moscow and Brussels at their worst in years. But both sides recognize that nothing can be done without the other.
The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has been in operation for nine months and launched more than 200 criminal cases to address the country's rampant corruption. But the problem remains intractable.
The Aland Islands were once contested by Finland and Sweden, their immediate neighbors. But the dispute's peaceful resolution has worked so well that Aland now serves as an example to other cultural conflicts.
Turkey, Egypt, and other favorite vacation spots are out of reach these days for Russians. But the north coast of the Black Sea, spanning from Crimea to Sochi to Abkhazia, offers an affordable alternative.
The exchange of Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko for two Russian servicemen appears to be moving ahead. But the deal could also reopen the question of just how involved Russia is with Ukraine's eastern rebellion.
Vladimir Putin took questions from reporters and the public, on topics ranging from his love life to foreign policy. But the overarching theme seemed to be an effort to sympathize with and reassure Russians suffering from the recession.
Amid plunging public trust, the Panama Papers revealed this week that the struggling Ukrainian president holds offshore accounts, and the Dutch resoundingly voted against accepting Ukraine into the EU.
The halting Minsk process, meant to peaceably reunite Ukraine with its restive eastern regions, got a big boost in recent weeks with the assignment of two top Putin officials to key positions in the Russian team.