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ON MY MIND

So Aleksei Navalny won't be going to prison, at least for now.

A court in Moscow declined a request from the Federal Penitentiary Service to change Navalny's suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher fraud case -- a case widely believed to be politically motivated -- to a real prison term.
But one has to wonder why the appeal even saw the light of day.

With State Duma elections approaching, the Kremlin no doubt remembers how Navalny stole the narrative back in 2011 -- branding the ruling United Russia party as "the party of swindlers and thieves," encouraging his supporters to vote for anybody but United Russia to deny them a majority, and then leading mass street protests after the vote.

With elections less than two months away, the Kremlin isn't interested in seeing a repeat performance. So the regime appears to be putting Navalny on notice.

IN THE NEWS

Some 250 Russian athletes who thought they had been cleared to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have discovered they still face one final hurdle. All Russian athletes must now be cleared by a new International Olympic Committee panel.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says Russian intelligence services hacked into Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers and accused Republican contender Donald Trump of backing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service has declined to comment on allegations that Russian intelligence hacked the Democratic National Committee's e-mail server.

The Republican candidate for U.S. president, Donald Trump, has said that, if elected, he would consider recognizing Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

A Russian helicopter has reportedly been shot down in Syria.

A court in Moscow has ruled against imprisoning opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service had appealed for the opposition leader be given a real prison term -- instead of a suspended sentence -- in the Yves Rocher fraud case.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looked at the recent escalation in the Donbas and what is behind it. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti and RFE/RL's Ukraine correspondent Christopher Miller, who is on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.

TODAY'S POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

Today's Power Vertical Briefing looks at the fallout from last week's shakeup of regional and federal elites.

WHAT I'M READING

McFaul On Countering Moscow

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, has an op-ed in The New York Times on How To Counter Putin's Playbook.

"A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it seemed that only democracies promoted their values abroad. Today, autocracies have entered the arena again, exporting their ideas and methods -- even to the United States," McFaul writes.

"Everywhere, autocrats are pushing back against democrats, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is the de facto leader of this global movement."

Assessing The Putin Threat

Nikolas Gvosdev of the U.S. Naval War College has a piece in The National Interest asking How Dangerous Is Russia?

Kaliningrad's New Governor

Writing in Slon, Oleg Kashin takes a look at Yevgeny Zinichev, the new governor of the Kaliningrad region.

Yakunin Speaks

Yulia Taratura, editor in chief of Slon.ru, interviewed Vladimir Yakunin, a longtime crony of Vladimir Putin who was sacked as head of Russian Railways last year.

SRB Podcast: The Soviet 'Humanitarian Invasion' Of Afghanistan

The latest SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks back at Soviet development policies in Cold War-era Afghanistan. Sean's guest is Tim Nunan, author of the book Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development In Cold War Afghanistan.

Ukraine Calling Podcast: Religion And Hybrid War

On the latest edition of Hromadske Radio's Ukraine Calling Podcast, host Marta Dyczok looks at the role of religion in hybrid war.

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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