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ON MY MIND

What do a Perm-based blogger and Russia's last independent polling agency have in common? Both are being sanctioned for telling the truth.

Vladimir Luzgin, the blogger featured in yesterday's Daily Vertical, was convicted of "rehabilitating Nazism" and "spreading false information about the activities of the Soviet Union during World War II" for reposting material on social media about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Soviet Union's 1939 invasion of Poland.

And the Levada Center, featured in today's Daily Vertical, has been blacklisted as a "foreign agent" after allegations that it received funding from abroad. Its real crime, however, is publishing polls that contradict the Kremlin's preferred narrative.

History and sociology: two fronts in the Kremlin's war on the truth.

IN THE NEWS

Russia's Justice Ministry has placed the independent national pollster Levada Center on its official register of organizations "operating as foreign agents," potentially threatening the widely respected research group's existence.

The Levada Center, meanwhile, says it plans to continue with its work.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says it has become increasingly difficult for Ukraine to secure Western support in its fight against "Russian aggression."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the grave of the former president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, as he paid his respects in Karimov's home city of Samarkand.

Russian prosecutors have arrested two associates of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg on bribery charges after masked officers raided his Renova conglomerate offices.

Mormon church officials have cut the number of missionaries being sent to Russia, saying the adjustment was forced by Russia's new antiterrorism law.

The United States and European authorities have denounced an arson attack on a pro-Russian Ukrainian television station, calling such violence "unacceptable."

Putin says he and U.S. President Barack Obama have taken another step forward on resolving the conflict in Syria.

Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to cooperate in world oil markets, saying they will not act immediately but could limit output in the future.

The Russian government says a new encyclopedia portal it is developing will not be a competitor to Wikipedia.

Kommersant is reporting that Putin may pay a visit to Russia's Kavkaz-2016 military exercises.

WHAT I'M READING

Raising the Stakes in Ukraine

Kathleen Weinberger of the Institute for the Study of War has a piece contextualizing Putin's recent saber rattling in Ukraine.

"Vladimir Putin has mobilized military forces in Crimea and on Ukraine's northern and eastern borders. He has raised the level of fighting in eastern Ukraine to levels not seen in over a year and then arranged a cease-fire. He has moved advanced air-defense systems into Crimea and is raising new Russian divisions near Ukraine. Analysts are baffled," Weinberger writes.

"There is nothing normal about this mobilization, but neither does Putin desire a war with Ukraine. He intends, rather, to use this mobilization and escalation of conflict to create leverage to weaken EU sanctions, destabilize the Ukrainian government, undermine NATO, and present the next American president with a series of faits accomplis. He is likely to succeed in all these aims."

Life During Wartime

In a piece on the European Council on Foreign Relations website, Vladimir Rafeyenko explores The Island Of Donetsk.

"Donetsk is not going through the best of times," Rafeyenko writes.

"It seems that these grey times -- without war but without peace, not part of Russia but not part of Ukraine -- will drag on for some time. Donetsk cannot be part of the Russian Federation, but Russia was able to rip it away from Ukraine, and it did so by spilling so much blood that it will take a long time for it to dry on the streets and squares of this place."

Deconstructing Whataboutism

In the second part of its guide to Russian propaganda, Euromaidan Press takes a look at "Whataboutism."

"Whataboutism is a constant diversion away from actual relevant news items, facts, and arguments into constant accusations of hypocrisy. This amounts to almost a pseudo-ideology of 'we are not perfect, but neither are you' rather than arguments like: 'our system is better' or 'you don’t understand,'" Euromaidan Press writes.

"Whataboutism is alive and strong today in Russian propaganda. The basic mechanism is an attempt to use either the emotions of shame or anger to derail an argument. By accusing their opponents or even just their interlocutors of hypocrisy, propagandists hope to trigger the emotion of shame to blunt accusations or divert the conversation into a discussion about hypocrisy."

The Mechanics of the Information War

Peter Pomerantsev, author of the book Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: Inside The Surreal Heart Of The New Russia, talks about Moscow's information war on Hromadske TV.

The Big Con

The BBC's John Simpson in the New Statesman on how Putin has conned us into thinking Russia is a superpower.

The Kremlin's Iran Strategy

Chatham House's Nikolay Kozhanov looks at complex relationship between Russian and Iran and how the Kremlin is attempting to manage it.

Putin at the G20

Vedomosti argues in an editorial that Putin actually had a very successful G20 summit.

Russia's U.S. 'Influence Operations'

The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence is investigating Russian "influence operations" inside the United States.

About This Blog

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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