Amy Knight


Amy Knight is a former Woodrow Wilson fellow. Her books include Who Killed Kirov: The Kremlin’s Greatest Mystery, Spies Without Cloaks: The KGB’s Successors, and How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies.

  • Flight MH17: Will Russia Get Away With It?

    November 19, 2014

    A growing number of unofficial investigations show unambiguously that a Russian missile system was used to down Malaysian flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

  • Obama’s Putin Delusion

    March 29, 2014

    The Obama White House has exhibited a misguided optimism about Kremlin intentions ever since the introduction of the “reset” with Russia in 2009.

  • Putin's Golden Dilemma

    March 5, 2014

    Clearly, one reason Putin seems to have decided to only go so far in Ukraine is the possibility of provoking retaliatory moves from the West. But Putin may also be apprehensive about the reaction within Russia itself.

  • The Hidden Face of Russian Security

    January 21, 2014

    While the FBI talks of improved ties to Russia's security forces leading up to the Sochi Olympics, the Russian government’s dismal record in fighting terrorism suggests it is far from a reliable partner.

  • Snowden in Exile

    August 31, 2013

    The revelation this week that Edward Snowden had already received help from the Russian government during his sojourn in Hong Kong has put a new perspective on his relations with the Kremlin. Is Snowden’s flight to Moscow turning him into precisely the traitor US authorities accuse him of being?

  • Playing Moscow's Game

    June 1, 2013

    Why has the Obama administration been welcoming a series of senior Russian officials to Washington while Russia makes new arms deals with Syria? One reason may be Washington’s newly-declared cooperation with Moscow in fighting terrorism, prompted by the April bombings in Boston.

  • Russia After Boston: A Free Pass on Human Rights?

    April 22, 2013

    The close cooperation between Moscow and Washington on the Boston bombing investigation raises new questions about the issue of human rights in Russia. Will the US government now turn a blind eye to Russia’s increasingly brutal crackdown on its own democratic opposition because of overriding concerns about national security, just as it did after 9/11?

  • Russia: The New Struggle with Putin

    October 10, 2012

    Although they have gotten little attention in the Western press, the regional elections taking place throughout Russia on October 14 may be Vladimir Putin’s greatest test since his return to the presidency last spring. With voters in seventy-three of Russia’s eighty-three regions going to the polls less than a year after the Kremlin faced allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections, the looming question for Putin is whether he can ensure a favorable outcome without overt manipulation. For the opposition, a primary concern is whether their candidates will even be on the ballot.

  • Putin's Propaganda Man

    May 31, 2012

    Though he was inaugurated only weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin already faces serious challenges to his administration. Judging from a controversial cabinet appointment that Putin made last week, one way the Kremlin may try to combat growing opposition is to revive a traditional Soviet-era weapon—propaganda. The person running the propaganda machine will be the new Minister of Culture, 41-year-old Vladimir Medinsky, who some Russian commentators have already dubbed the Russian Goebbels.

  • Stealing Russia's Future

    March 8, 2012

    It came as little surprise that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won Russia’s March 4 presidential election, but the fact that he received over 63 percent of the vote was unexpected. To be sure, the Kremlin had launched a huge propaganda effort on Putin’s behalf, and the four other candidates on the ballot, including billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov (who represented no party and had no clear platform), hardly offered viable alternatives. But Putin’s popularity had been eroded following December’s disputed parliamentary elections, and recent large-scale protests had called into question the continued strength of his support. In fact, there are multiple indications that the Kremlin has again manipulated the outcome. If these reports are correct, they suggest Putin is playing a dangerous game, since the widespread perception that December’s elections were fraudulent was what brought tens of thousands of Russians into the streets in the first place.

  • The Kremlin Strikes Back

    January 26, 2012

    For much of the past decade, Putin’s Kremlin was able to consolidate its power by marginalizing the democratic opposition and providing enough economic benefits for middle-class Russians to keep them quiet. As recently as late November, Putin’s smooth return to the presidency for six and perhaps twelve more years seemed virtually assured. But then there were the December 4 Duma elections, marred by allegations of widespread fraud, and everything changed. Now, with presidential elections less than six weeks away, the old formula may no longer work. Which leaves two possibilities: a vigorous reform effort, or more drastic steps to insure the election outcome.

  • Making the Case Against the Kremlin

    December 6, 2011

    There are many reasons for the growing disillusionment with Putinism, among them the way Putin announced earlier this fall that current president Dmitry Medvedev would step aside in the March 2012 presidential elections so that he could run largely unopposed. But there also seems to be an increasing sense among Russian voters that the Kremlin has done nothing to stop pervasive corruption and that its own behavior is often above the law.

  • Putin's Risky Course

    October 7, 2011

    On October 7, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin celebrates his birthday, which this year—his 59th--is probably an especially happy occasion for him. Two weeks earlier, on September 24, President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would step aside so that Putin instead of him could represent the United Russia Party in the March 2012 presidential elections. This means that Putin—who after years of dominating the political scene is unlikely to face a credible challenger--could serve as leader of the Kremlin until 2024, when he will turn 72, in the age group of his predecessors in the Soviet era. But perhaps Putin should not celebrate too soon.

  • Caving to the Kremlin

    September 16, 2011

    Judging from Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Moscow on September 12, the British government has decided to cave in to the Russians in the long-running dispute over the November 2006 murder in London of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. The victim, who was highly critical of Vladimir Putin and had been given asylum in Britain in 2000, died an agonizing death at a North London hospital on November 23, three weeks after being poisoned with polonium 210—a rare and highly lethal radioactive substance. As a result of Russia’s unwillingness to cooperate with its investigation of the crime, Britain ended intelligence sharing with Moscow and introduced new visa restrictions on Russian businessmen trying to go to the UK. But Cameron’s meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin this week indicates that Britain is reassessing its Moscow strategy—and by extension, its view of the Russian leadership.

  • Hope for Khodorkovsky, and for Russia?

    June 8, 2011

    At first glance, it is hard not to conclude that the future looks dire for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the former Yukos executives who have been in prison since 2003 and are widely seen as victims of the Kremlin’s power politics and greed over oil assets. Yet despite this apparent bad news, there may be growing reason to hope that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will be released early. Above all, there has been a dramatic shift in how the Russian media is handling the case.

  • Putting the Watch on Putin

    April 14, 2011

    The liberal oppositionists clearly face an uphill struggle in trying to reach beyond the circle of urban educated people who comprise Russia’s small online community of bloggers and activists. But they have by no means given up.

  • Why the Kremlin Can't Fight Terrorism

    February 16, 2011

    As the story of the horrific January 24 bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport continues to unfold, the parallels with past major terrorist attacks in Russia are striking.

  • The End of the Medvedev Revolution?

    January 5, 2011

    Since a Russian judge sentenced former Yukos oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, to thirteen and a half years in prison on December 30, many commentators have viewed the outcome as a major setback for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In the long run, however, the case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev may hurt Prime Minister Vladimir Putin more than Medvedev as the two rivals position themselves for the 2012 presidential contest.

  • All the President's Men? Inside the Kremlin's Moscow Problem

    October 12, 2010

    Poor Yuri Luzhkov. He can’t keep his mouth shut. Just when it seemed that the fall-out from his abrupt dismissal in late September as Moscow’s mayor had begun to dissipate, Luzhkov gave an interview on CNN in which he once more attacked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the man who fired him.

  • Moscow and the 'Merchant of Death'

    September 2, 2010

    Considered one of the world's most prolific weapons traffickers, Victor Bout has become the object of a high-level tug-of-war between Washington and Moscow over US efforts to extradite him from Thailand, where he is being held. Yet amid all the speculation about Russia's interest in the case, one of the more revealing clues about Bout's Kremlin connections has gone largely unnoticed.

  • The Kremlin's Chechen Dragon

    May 27, 2010

    Since becoming president of Chechnya in 2007, Ramzan Kadyrov has made the republic into his own fiefdom, which he rules by violence and terror.

  • What Happened to Wallenberg: Russia's Chilling Revelation

    April 26, 2010

    The fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the heroic young Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews before he was arrested by the Soviets in Budapest in early 1945, is one of the great unresolved mysteries of World War II. Now the Russians have come up with startling new information about his death.

  • Death in Detention: Russia's Prison Scandal

    January 7, 2010

    The horrors of Soviet prisons and labor camps were described vividly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, Yevgenia Ginzburg’s Into the Whirlwind, and later, by the Soviet dissident and former political prisoner Anatoly Marchenko, in his 1969 memoir, My Testimony. To judge from a disturbing new report about the tragic death of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in late November, Russia’s current penal system is almost as bad as it used to be.

  • Terror on the Nevsky Express

    December 4, 2009

    The horrific November 27 bombing of the Nevsky Express halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg could have serious political repercussions for the Kremlin. News of the explosion, which killed twenty-six and injured around a hundred passengers aboard the luxury, high-speed train, sent shockwaves throughout Russia. Adding to the sense of danger were the deaths of two high-level federal officials in the attack, as well as a second bombing at the site many hours later, which injured Alexander Bastrykhin, the head of the powerful Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office, and several of his subordinates, who had come to examine the damage. These bombings were followed by yet another explosion, on a railway track in the North Caucasian republic of Dagestan, on November 30. As Yulia Latynina, one of Russia’s top independent journalists put it: “The feeling of war, of a complete and total disintegration of the state, is hanging in the air.”