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ON MY MIND

At first glance, the things Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin calls for in an article in today's issue of Kommersant Vlast look a bit crazy. He wants Chinese-style Internet censorship. He's calling for political education for the youth. He's calling for intrusive inspections of religious organizations. And he wants it to be a crime to call into question Crimea's 2014 referendum on joining Russia.

But here's the thing. Bastrykin has a strong track record of proposing things that seem outlandish -- but which later happen. Like, for example, when he proposed that the Investigative Committee be removed from the jurisdiction of the Prosecutor-General's Office. Bastrykin got that, and now the Investigative Committee is arguably Russia's most powerful law-enforcement body. It is Vladimir Putin's personal politics police.

Which means the things Bastrykin is proposing now could be a blueprint for the future.

IN THE NEWS

Ukraine is due to sentence two Russian soldiers captured in the Donbas. Prosecutors are asking for 15-year sentences.

Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko's dry hunger strike is entering its 12th day. Savchenko has reportedly slipped into critical condition.

The United States is reporting another close call with a Russian warplane over the Baltic Sea.

Oil prices tumble, ruble falls, as oil talks fail.

WHAT I'M READING

Rhetoric And Policy

Did the toned-down rhetoric of Vladimir Putin's call-in program reflect a change in foreign policy? The always insightful Vladimir Frolov offers his take in a piece for Slon.ru.

Ukraine's New Government

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky takes a skeptical look at Ukraine's new cabinet.

Putin's Plans For Belarus

Writing in Newsweek, Chatham House scholar Kier Giles looks at relations between Moscow and Minsk.

All Power To The Investigative Committee!

Censorship and ideology and political education -- oh my! Writing in Kommersant, Investigative Committee Chairman Aleksandr Bastrykin lays out his proposals to fight "extremism and what he calls the West's "information war" against Russia.

Writing in BNE Intelinews, security analyst Mark Galeotti unpacks what he calls "Bastrykin’s manifesto for the 'North Koreanization' of Russia."

"Put together, this represents one of the sharpest recent expressions of a perspective that would lead Russia to deliberately withdraw itself from its connections with the outside world, in political, social, cultural and economic terms," Galeotti writes. "Yes, this is nothing like a real 'North Koreanization,' with its slave labor and starvation. But if one puts all the aspects of Bastrykin’s manifesto together -- demonizing opposition as acting as agents of the West, blocking information not scripted by the state, developing and enforcing a 'national ideology,' controlling financial flows -- then this would be a dramatic and unwelcome reversal of the integrative processes since 1991."

More On Russian Brinkmanship

Chatham House's Kier Giles has a piece on Russian brinkmanship on the high seas.

The Kremlin And Europe's Far Left

Russia's outreach to Europe's xenophobic far right has been well documented. A new paper by Peter Kreko, the director of the Budapest Political Capital Research and Consulting Institute, and Lorant Gyori, a social sciences graduate student at Hungary's Eotvos Lorand University, takes a close look at the Kremlin's efforts to court Europe's far left.

War Profiteering

Hackers in Ukraine have uncovered how Russia is pillaging coal from the separatist-controlled parts of the Donbas.

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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