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ON MY MIND

Apparently taking one Savchenko hostage wasn't enough for Russia. They had to grab two. Just hours after the formal procedure to turn kidnapped Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko over to the Kyiv authorities was reported to have begun, Russia tried to nab her sister, Vira. Russian border guards seized the passport of Vira Savchenko, who was riding in a Ukrainian diplomatic car, and -- in violation of diplomatic protocol -- prevented it from leaving the country. Russia opened a criminal case against Vira Savchenko in November for insulting a Russian judge, whom she reportedly referred to as a "schmuck." The incident is emblematic of the pettiness and disregard for international norms that Russia has displayed throughout the whole Savchenko affair.

IN THE NEWS

Russian border guards have seized the passport of Vira Savchenko, sister of detained Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko, and prevented her from leaving the country.

The incident happened hours after the procedure to turn Nadia Savchenko over to Ukraine was reportedly launched.

After an embarrassing delay, Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome launched an unmanned Soyuz rocket today. The launch was originally scheduled for yesterday but, with Vladimir Putin in attendance, it had to be delayed for a day due to a last-minute technical glitch.

Putin sharply criticized Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the Vostochny Cosmodrome's management after over the delayed launch.

Protesters demanding the resignation of Odesa Mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov remain defiant after being attacked by unidentified assailants.

WHAT I'M READING

Cuban Missile Crisis Redux

Two Communist Party lawmakers have proposed that Russia deploy missiles to Cuba in retaliation for U.S. plans to put a rocket-launching system in southern Turkey to combat Islamic State militants.

Nukes In Crimea?

Speaking at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed Russia was "deploying elements of its nuclear potential" in Crimea.

Russia's Soviet People

Gazeta.ru has a long piece titled People of the Closed Society that addresses the question: Why are so many Russian people still "Soviet" in their attitudes?

A Fresh Approach to Donbas?

What should the West do next in the Ukraine conflict? A good start would be recognizing the conflict for what it is -- Russian aggression. That's the argument of Marieluise Beck, a member of Germany's Bundestag from the Green Party, and Ralf Fücks, co-president of Germany’s Heinrich Boell-Foundation's in a piece on the Atlantic Council's website.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland hints that Washington may take a more active role in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"One of the decisions made at Hannover is that the United States will now accelerate its own diplomacy, in close coordination with the Normandy format leaders -- with Germany and with France -- to see Minsk implemented. This will require restoring security and OSCE access across the Donbas, the return of hostages, preparations for real, Ukrainian elections in Donbas that meet international standards and that accord with your constitution, and of course, the withdrawal of all weapons and foreign forces, and a return of sovereignty over your border to Ukraine."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian intelligence says 75 percent of militants in Donbas are Russian citizens.

The Putinization of Poland

The Center on Global Interests asks: Is Poland "Putinizing" European Politics?

Money Can Buy You Passports

Intersection magazine has a rundown of countries where rich Russians have invested in Western countries in exchange for residency or citizenship.

Unrequited Love

How justified are Russia's grievances against the West? Intersection magazine has launched a series titled Has The West Forsaken Russia's Love? to address the issue.

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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