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ON MY MIND

First Alyaksandr Lukashenka tried the carrot and then he tried the stick. But neither seem to be working.

Faced with massive protests against an unpopular tax on the unemployed, the Belarusian strongman suspended the tax.

And when the protests persisted, Lukashenka turned to his old tried-and-true methods: arrests and intimidation.

But the unfolding crisis in Belarus, driven by economic hardship and declining living standards, is showing no signs of abating.

And as the drama unfolds, the Kremlin -- ever wary of losing another client -- is watching attentively.

So what happens next?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll take a close look at the Belarusian Spring, the reaction from the regime and Moscow, and where it all may lead.

Joining me will be Alyaksey Znatkevich of RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Maryna Rakhlei of the Fund for Belarus Democracy at the German Marshal Fund.

So be sure to tune in later today!

IN THE NEWS

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite says NATO should move its command centers closer to the alliance’s eastern borders to deter the "growing threat from Russia."

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Washington should "never trust Russia," the latest in a series of hawkish statements that have made her a leading Russia critic in President Donald Trump's administration.

The United States on March 16 issued a sharp condemnation of Russia’s seizure of Crimea on the third anniversary of a referendum Moscow staged there and later held up as justification for its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.

The European Parliament is calling on Moscow to free more than 30 Ukrainian citizens who are in prison or other conditions of restricted freedom in Russia, Crimea, and parts of eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit Russia on May 2.

Former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn was paid more than $67,000 by Russian companies before the U.S. presidential election, according to documents released on March 16 by a Democratic congressman.

A day after U.S. authorities indicted two Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers over a massive hack targeting Yahoo, the Kremlin reiterated its claim that the Russian state has never been involved in any cyberattacks.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has prolonged its monitoring mission in Ukraine by one year -- until March 2018.

Russian authorities have moved to shut down the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, asking the country’s Supreme Court to declare the denomination an extremist organization.

Ukraine's suspended tax and customs service chief, Roman Nasirov, has been released on bail from his two-month pretrial detention on embezzlement charges.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has imposed sanctions on five banks with Russian capital functioning in Ukraine.

A Belarusian court has ordered Associated Press reporter Yuras Karmanau to disavow a report he wrote showing high levels of radioactivity in milk produced near the Belarusian territory irradiated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Dozens of activists were fined or sent to jail for up to 15 days in Belarus on March 16, following protests in three cities the previous day.

WHAT I'M READING

The Gerasimov Doctrine 2.0

Russian Armed Forces General Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov has published a new article in Voenno-Promyshlennii Kuryer, The World On The Brink Of War. The piece, based on an address Gerasimov gave at the Academy of Military Sciences, expands on his argument that the West is waging a hybrid war on Russia.

The Russian Defense Budget

Writing on his blog, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague takes a close look at the Russian defense budget

A New Kind Of Alliance

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves writes in Defense One that "a new kind of war demands new defensive alliances." Ilves argues for a new collective security organization based on democratic principles rather than geography.

Kadyrov's Spetsnaz

In Republic.ru, Anastasia Yakovleva takes a look at a new training center for special forces that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has set up near Gudermes.

The Kremlin's Western Friends

Aleksandr Morozov has a piece in OpenDemocracy on the state of Russia's influence networks in the West.

About That 'Yanukovych Letter'

Halya Coynash writes about how Russia has changed its story about the letter from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that was used to justify Moscow's armed intervention in Ukraine.

Remember Crimea?

Ridvan Bari Urcosta of the Institute of International Relations at Warsaw University has a piece on the European Council on Foreign Relations website on how to put Crimea back on the international agenda.

Why Belarus Matters

Andrew Wilson, a senior policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations and a professor at University College London, has a piece in Politico on why the West should keep an eye on Belarus.

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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