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ON MY MIND

If you believe Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin, Russia must be a really, really weak country. How else can you explain a country that is so fragile that the mere presence of foreign media on the Internet can cause it to collapse?

If you believe Bastrykin, Russia's security services and law enforcement must be really really incompetent. How else could you explain the country being so infiltrated with enemies, fifth columnists, and foreign agents bent on its destruction?

If Russia is as vulnerable as Bastrykin suggested in his controversial manifesto published by Kommersant Vlast this week -- an article in which he calls for a wave of new repressive measures -- then the 16-year reign of Vladimir Putin's regime has been a complete and utter failure.

IN THE NEWS

The NATO-Russia Council meets today for the first time in nearly two years amid rising tensions.

A Dutch court has quashed a $50 billion award for Yukos shareholders.

The Dutch parliament has voted to uphold the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and free-trade pact.

According to a new poll by the Levada Center, 40 percent of Russians say the state is not fulfilling its obligations to citizens.

Legislation to tighten controls on online news aggregators has been introduced into the Russian State Duma.

WHAT I'M READING

Ukraine's Oligarchs

These are few better commentators on Ukraine than Andrew Wilson of the European Council on Foreign Relations. In his latest piece, Survival Of The Richest, Andrew looks at how oligarchs are blocking real reform in Ukraine.

"Ukraine suffers from many types of corruption, but the inter-penetration of the corrupt political class and super-rich oligarchy is the main obstacle to reform," Wilson writes. "The oligarchy’s power comes first of all from the sheer concentration of wealth in its hands. Just before the Euromaidan protests began, in November 2013, it was calculated that the assets of Ukraine’s 50 richest individuals made up over 45 percent of GDP, compared to less than 20 percent in Russia and less than 10 percent in the U.S."

Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, meanwhile, takes a look the state of play in Ukraine -- and between Ukraine and Russia -- in the wake of its government shake-up.

More Reactions To Bastrykin

The commentary on Aleksandr Bastrykin's controversial article in Kommersant Vlast calling for a national ideology, political indoctrination, and tougher censorship continues to generate comments. In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that Bastrykin makes Putin look tame. Maybe that's the point.

And in an op-ed for Vedomosti, The Apocalypse From Bastrykin, political analyst Fyodor Krashennikov lampoons the Investigative Committee head's characterization of Russia as "a permanent victim and helpless puppet in U.S. hands."

The Siloviki Shuffle

Moscow-based political analyst NIkolai Petrov takes a look at how Putin has changed the balance of power among the security services with the creation of a National Guard.

Spooks, Crooks, And Money

Slon.ru interviews New York University professor and Power Vertical Podcast co-host Mark Galeotti on his favorite topics: spooks and crooks.

Putin's War On Europe

German journalist Boris Reitschuster is making waves with a new book, Putin's Hidden War, in which he argues that Russia is using a network of martial arts clubs in Europe to form a network of pro-Moscow paramilitaries. Deutsche Welle interviewed Reitschuster about his allegations about Putin's secret sleepers.

Bloomberg, meanwhile has a story outlining Russia's various efforts to destabilize Europe.

Europe, Meet Geopolitics...

Andrew Michta of the U.S. Naval War College and the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a piece in The American Interest about how geopolitics has returned to Europe.

"With the next NATO summit in Warsaw just three months away, an increasingly militarized fault line dividing Russia from the West is in place, running along the eastern frontier of the Baltic states, Poland’s border along the Bug River boundary, and farther south along the frontier of the Black Sea NATO allies. And there are reasons to believe that the process of a further geostrategic readjustment in Europe has barely begun," Michta writes.

Sanctions Fallout

Russia is abandoning plans to issue Eurobonds this year in the face of Western sanctions and pressure on top banks not to participate, according to this report by Bloomberg.

In Vedomosti, meanwhile, political commentator Vladislav Inozemtsev evaluates the effectiveness of Western sanctions.

Navalny Walks The Walk

Practicing what he preaches, opposition leader Aleksei Navanly has published his Anti-Corruption Foundation's financial accounts on his blog.

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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