Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Power Vertical

Plots, Conspiracies, And Automobiles (Oh My!)

So now we know what was really behind those demonstrations in Vladivostok that have so spooked the Kremlin.

How naive we were to think that the protesters were just ordinary folks concerned that an increase in auto-import tariffs would damage their livelihoods -- which were already being battered by the ongoing economic crisis.

But what about the fact that the importing used cars from Japan, and all the spinoffs associated with that business, accounts for a large portion of Vladivostok's local economy? Irrelevant!

According to a new report by the State Duma's analytical department, the demonstrators were -- get ready for it! -- part of a diabolical plot by unidentified foreign powers seeking to "detach the Far East from Russia."

The daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted parts of the report in a story on Friday:

The protests against increasing customs duties can be seen as [part of] a premeditated plot to destabilize a whole series of Russian regions...The protests are being carried out according to a single scenario, which is reminiscent of the tactics of the so-called orange revolutions, in which discontent is artificially inspired and channeled into the political sphere, leading to the destabilization of the situation, the overthrow of the authorities, and the establishment of pseudo-independence.

The evidence for this in the report, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," is pretty thin: Japan's foreign ministry has spoken out against the tariff increases (and why wouldn't they?) and some of the demonstrators in Vladivosotok were seen carrying Japanese flags.

When journalists pressed Vladimir Pekhtin, a State Duma deputy from Primorsky Krai, for something more specific, he came up with the following: "There are branches of various international structures like Rotary Clubs in Primorsky Krai... Here everything is not as straightforward as it appears."

So now can we expect members of the newly formed group TIGR, which is carrying on the Vladivostok protests, to be charged with espionage?

Paul Goble over at Window On Eurasia makes the following observation:

What is most disturbing about this that it is yet another indication that Moscow officials are not prepared to accept that protests against the government are a normal part of democratic societies. Instead, this document suggests, many Moscow officials now, like their Soviet-era predecessors, either are convinced that 'foreign forces' are behind any disagreement with the center or are ready to present them in that way in order to justify ignoring the demands of the protesters or cracking down on those taking part.

And it isn't just in Vladivostok that the Kremlin sees recent foreign plots. Gazprom, for example, has accused the United States of provoking Russia's gas dispute with Ukraine. The reason? Washington is apparently seeking a pretext to take over Kyiv's pipeline system.

In a recent article in "Yezhednevnyy zhurnal," Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin sarcastically -- and hilariously -- deconstructed the Kremlin's tendency to blame any and all problems on imagined foreign conspiracies:

Those feelings of sabotage in Russia are always inspired from outside the country. How could they originate inside the country, inside the healthy heart of collectivism? It is a fact, after all, that there would have been no protests in Vladivostok if it were not so close to Japan and its vile foreign cars. People would be standing in line for Zhigulis and would not be craving something else. If it were not for the dollar and the euro, there would be no problems with the ruble exchange rate. Can anyone deny that?

We can probably expect more of this kind of thing in the future as the economic crisis in Russia deepens and the authorities feel increasingly threatened.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: protests,vladivostok,influence,paranoia,foreign,Russia

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ivan from: Kharkov
January 20, 2009 06:49
And this surprises people?<br />Putin &amp; his KGB cronies are incessantly paranoid and extremely dillusional.<br />Plus, they must warrant &amp; justify the continuation of zillions of rubles pouring into KGB for funding.<br />The World is against us. They all hate us.<br />Plots! Conspiracies! Who is that in the shadows?<br />Must be the CIA.

by: Daniel
January 21, 2009 09:30
Great comment ...

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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