Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Power Vertical

Novaya Gazeta Scores Presidential Interview

Novaya Gazeta Editor Dmitry Muratov
Novaya Gazeta Editor Dmitry Muratov
They discussed democracy, civil society, human rights, and the case against jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky for more than an hour.

They are Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Dmitry Muratov, editor in chief of the opposition weekly "Novaya gazeta." And the content of their little chat will be published Wednesday morning, making it a pretty good bet that "Novaya gazeta" will sell a lot of newspapers this week. Or at least its website will get its fair share of clicks.

By giving an interview to "Novaya gazeta," which has infuriated the Kremlin with a steady stream of reports on corruption and official abuse over the years, Medvedev appears to be trying to endear himself to the liberal intelligentsia at a time when Russia's political system looks increasingly wobbly.

It's a courtship that Medvedev has been tentatively pursuing for months.

Medvedev shocked Moscow's chattering classes in January when he invited Muratov and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a part owner of "Novya gazeta," to a meeting in the Kremlin.

The meeting came a little more than a week after human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and "Novaya gazeta" journalist Anastasiya Baburova were assassinated in downtown Moscow. Baburova was the fourth journalist from "Novaya gazeta" killed in the past decade. The most infamous case, of course, was the October 2006 assassination of Anna Politkovskaya.

During their Kremlin meeting, Muratov asked Medvedev for a formal interview. Muratov told the daily "Komemrsant" that the Kremlin press service called him last week and said the interview was on.

Muratov told "Kommersant" that the two discussed issues including civil society, human rights, controls on the bureaucracy, the need for an independent judiciary, and the ongoing criminal case against Khodorkovsky. The editor also asked the president "whether of not democracy will be revived in Russia any time soon."

How did Medvedev answer? We'll have to wait until Wednesday morning to know all the details. But in an interview with the BBC Russian Service, Muratov said he gives Medvedev "high marks" for some of his answers, specifically those relating to the Khodorkovsky case.

Medvedev's move comes at a time when the Russian elite is increasingly divided over the lessons and consequences of the economic crisis, which appears to be shaking the political system to its foundations.

Two deputy prime ministers, Igor Shuvalov and Igor Sechin, are locked in a fierce battle over the direction of the economy. Shuvalov -- backed by Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and Economics Minister Elvira Nabiullina -- is pushing for a more diversified economy. Sechin and the "siloviki" clan of security service veterans -- who are heavily tied to the energy sector --  are fighting to maintain Russia's traditional role as a commodities exporter.

The debate over the economy mirrors a parallel dispute about the political system, with  reformers saying that the crisis makes it necessary to liberalize the authoritarian system of "sovereign democracy" instituted by Vladimir Putin.

Did Medvedev weigh in on all this? I guess we'll all have to wake up bright and early and check "Novaya gazeta" to find out. Muratov will also go on the air with RFE/RL's Russian Service on Wednesday morning to discuss his talk with the president.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: interview,novaya,gazeta,muratov,medvedev,Russia

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
April 15, 2009 15:24
An early commenter on the NG website, responding to the interview, sums it up aptly: Medvedev talks much, and says nothing. Some of the blame, of course, must be allocated to the interviewer. Latynina should have been the one asking the questions, or better yet Novodvorskaya.

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In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers 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