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The Morning Vertical, September 7, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore


Even by the Kafkaesque and Orwellian standards of Russian justice, the trial of Akhtem Chiygoz, the deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, stands out.

As Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group points out in a piece featured below, Chiygoz and five other Crimean Tatars are charged with organizing mass riots for their involvement in a pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Crimea -- before it was annexed by Russia. The group is also being accused of being complicit in the deaths of two people during those demonstrations, even though they took place in another area where a pro-Russian counterdemonstration was taking place. One of the victims died of a heart attack and the husband of the other said it was unlikely that the defendants were responsible.

Chiygoz has not been allowed to even attend his trial, and the judge has repeatedly made anti-Tatar statements during the proceedings.

But the show trial, nevertheless, goes on. And the verdict is, sadly, very predictable.


Ilmi Umerov, the former deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, has been released from a psychiatric hospital in Russia-occupied Crimea where he was forcefully admitted.

The Memorial Human Rights Center says Russian authorities have begun a surprise audit of the nongovernmental organization to determine whether it should be designated as a "foreign agent."

A Russian delegation will arrive in Egypt today to decide whether flights to the country should resume after a Russian passenger plane was blown up last October.

A U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts finished a 172-day mission aboard the International Space Station and descended onto the steppes of Kazakhstan in a dawn landing, NASA TV showed.

Russia's Justice Ministry says its decision to place the independent national pollster the Levada Center on its official register of organizations "operating as foreign agents" was made due to financial support the pollster received from the United States.

The U.S. State Department has condemned Russia's designation of the nation's only independent polling organization as a "foreign agent."

The Estonian military says Russian aircraft violated Estonian airspace over the Baltic Sea, the fourth such violation by Russia this year.

Two prominent Russian environmental activists have criticized Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the U.S. Green Party, saying her positions on President Vladimir Putin and his policies are “deeply shocking.”


Fear And Loathing In The Donbas

Vladimir Peshkov has a piece up on the European Council on Foreign Relations website -- The Donbas: Back To The U.S.S.R. -- looking at how the occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are administered.

"People in the Donbas are desperate for some form of certainty," Peshkov writes.

"Life in the unrecognized republics is tiring. Shattered hopes and dreams are forcing people to rethink their positions on Ukraine and Russia. They wanted to join Russia, but instead ended up joining the Soviet Union. And a form of the U.S.S.R. that never existed. It is a place where portraits of Stalin on the main street happily coexist with the protection of Orthodox values which, in turn, fit perfectly in the "Eurasian civilizational project" in which there is no place for love and forgiveness in the Christian spirit. Everything is very vague and undefined."

Another Oligarch In The Crosshairs

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at the attack by law enforcement on the business interests of billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.

"Since Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia, people who had made billions in the murky first decade of Russian capitalism have been picked off one by one: jailed, pushed out of the country, forced to give up assets or take part in unprofitable projects. Now, apparently, it's Viktor Vekselberg's turn: An attack on some of his top managers means that repeated demonstrations of loyalty to the Kremlin are no safety guarantee," Bershidsky writes.

Writing in, political analyst Tatyana Stolovaya argues that the Vekselberg case shows how the rules of the game are changing.

At The Front

In New Eastern Europe, Stefan Jajecznyk takes a look at life on the front lines with Ukrainian volunteers.

"Undermanned, under-paid and under-equipped; the Ukrainian regular army and the Volunteer Battalions rely on the kindness, bravery and dedication of the country’s volunteers; a network of whom sprawls across the whole country," Jajecznyk writes.

"Helped by the ubiquitous nature of social media, the volunteers exist in a world far removed from the bustling cafes and bars of central Kyiv. They use sites such as Facebook to co-ordinate deliveries, fund-raise for vital equipment and share stories of their travels and the soldiers."

A Dangerous Profession

Writing in Foreign Policy, Ian Bateson examines the spate of attacks against Ukrainian journalists.

"This new violence, as well as the government’s lack of response, is reminiscent of the intimidation and censorship that the media faced under the regimes of former Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych," Bateson writes.

Donetsk University's Class Of 2016

Melinda Haring, editor of UkraineAlert at the Atlantic Council, has a piece in Newsweek -- The Ukrainian Students Who Defied Russia's Invasion -- looking at how Donetsk National University was relocated when the war broke out to the the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia.

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has a couple of pieces worth reading. In one, she weighs in on the Kremlin's effort to silence the Levada Center, Russia's last independent pollster, by branding it a "foreign agent."

And in another she looks at the surreal trial of imprisoned Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz.

The Growing List Of 'Fifth Columnists'

An editorial in Vedomosti notes that repressive laws designed to target "fifth columnists" in the opposition are being used against "loyal citizens" like striking farmers and parents of victims of the 2004 Beslan massacre.

Putin's Shaky Facts

Yevgeny Karasyuk has a piece in on Putin's fondness for citing facts, figures, and statistics -- and how they are often way off the mark.

Book Launch

Marta Dyczok, a history professor at the University of Western Ontario, is launching her new book: Ukraine's Euromaidan: Broadcasting Through Information Wars With Hromadske Radio.

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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