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After months of speculation about the fate of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, it looks like the Kremlin decided to show its teeth -- or at least it did at first.

In a courtroom in the city of Kirov on July 18, Judge Sergei Blinov sentenced Navalny to five years in prison on embezzlement charges widely viewed as trumped up.

Navalny was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody, ending speculation that he might get a suspended sentence -- and apparently ending his run in Moscow's mayoral elections.

So the Kremlin decided to play rough. Or did it?

It wasn't long before cracks began to appear in the monolith.

As thousands braved police cordons and took to the streets in protest in Moscow and elsewhere,the Prosecutor-General's Office announced that it was, in fact, illegal to detain Navalny in court and he should be free on bail pending appeal.

And that's exactly what happened. On July 19, Navalny was released less than 24 hours after he was detained and was soon on a train back home to Moscow.

Navalny's saga has reached a critical juncture. But does the Kremlin even have a strategy?

In the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," I discuss this ongoing political drama with New York University professor Mark Galeotti, author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows," Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service and a contributor to, and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies and author of "Sean's Russia Blog."


Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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