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The Morning Vertical, September 19, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

Somehow, I don't think it is an accident that the day after United Russia won a record number of seats in the State Duma, amid a record low turnout, media reports surfaced that the Kremlin is planning to create a new super ministry called the Ministry of State Security -- or MGB.

If that sounds ominous, it is because it is.

According to a report in Kommersant (featured below), it would absorb most of Russia's intelligence and security services and look ominously like the old Soviet KGB.

One-party rule and a new KGB. Hmmm. What does that look like?

As Steve Gutterman and I discuss on this week's Power Vertical Briefing (featured below), I think the low turnout in the election, the supermajority that United Russia secured, and the specter of a revival of the KGB are related.

And as I noted on The Daily Vertical (featured below), Vladimir Putin appears to be moving away from electoral authoritarianism and toward plain old authoritarianism.

IN THE NEWS

With 93 percent of the vote from Russia’s State Duma elections counted, official results show the governing United Russia party on track to win more than 300 of the 450 legislative seats -- enough to secure a two-thirds constitutional majority in the lower chamber of parliament.

Partial results show that the leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, is leading with more than 97 percent of the vote in the September 18 election of the regional head.

Right-wing protesters scuffled with police in Kyiv as dozens rallied outside the Russian Embassy, where a polling station was set up for Russian citizens to vote in their country's parliamentary elections.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has responded angrily to U.S.-led air strikes on Syrian Army forces, calling them "on the boundary between criminal negligence and direct connivance" with Islamic State militants.

Tensions between Russian and U.S. diplomats have spilled over at the United Nations Security Council after Russian officials demanded to know whether the United States intentionally supported Islamic State (IS) militants with air strikes that hit Syrian government troops.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, on the most recent Power Vertical Podcast, I previewed the weekend elections with Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague and Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique.

FACEBOOK LIVE

After the vote on Sunday, I hosted a Facebook Live show with Galeotti and Andrey Cherkasov of RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time in which we analyzed the results.

NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

And on today's Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss the results of the election with RFE/RL senior editor Steve Gutterman. Also on The Briefing, we discuss reports that the Kremlin is planning to create a new Ministry of State Security that looks suspiciously like the Soviet KGB.

WHAT I'M READING

The Return Of The KGB?

Kommersant has a report on Kremlin plans to establish a new Ministry of State Security that would assume many of the functions of the Soviet KGB. According to the report, the new ministry -- the MGB -- would be established on the basis of the FSB and would absorb the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service, as well as the Federal Protection Service. It would also have procedural oversight over the Investigative Committee and the Interior Ministry.

Election Postmortems

Slon.ru summarizes the results of the State Duma elections in a series of useful infographics.

Dozhd TV also gives its main takeaways and compares turnout to previous State Duma elections.

And Meduza also offers its key takeaways.

The Legitimacy Question

The European Values think tank is circulating a petition calling on democratic parliaments to cease all cooperation with the Russian State Duma because some of its members were elected from the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine's parliament, meanwhile, is considering a resolution calling on the United Nations and the OSCE not to recognize the Russian State Duma because some of its members were elected from the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Hiring The Hackers

According to a report in Vedomosti, Roskomnadzor, Russia's main media regulator, is seeking to hire "programmers with the skills to bypass computer security systems" -- in other words, hackers.

The Odesa Smoking Gun

A new film produced by journalists in Odesa alleges that Russia was behind both recent disturbances in the city and the May 2014 clashes, in which 14 people died.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group also has a write-up of the film, summarizing and contextualizing its main findings.

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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