Monday, November 24, 2014

The Power Vertical

The Anti-Putin Manifesto

Increasingly, battle lines are being drawn in Russia. Yesterday, an online petition appeared calling for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's removal from power and it has been signed by virtually all active members of the Russian political opposition and a growing rank of ordinary citizens.

The sites where the petition has been posted (here and here) have been frequently inaccessible today, so The Power Vertical decided to translate the entire manifesto in full for the record. It represents a clear and impassioned presentation of the opposition's indictment against Putin. And, by focussing dissent so personally and directly on Putin himself, the authors of the declaration could be significantly raising the odds of a violent crackdown.

Here is the anti-Putin manifesto in its entirety:

Citizens of Russia! The recognition that the ruling elite has led our country into a historical dead end has prompted us to issue this statement.

The transfer of virtually unlimited power by the [Yeltsin-era] Family, which was trying to guarantee its own security, to a man of dubious reputation who was distinguished neither by talent nor by the requisite life or professional experience has resulted predictably in the serious degradation of all institutions of state governance.

Even a significant portion of the ruling “elite” feels that a change is necessary, as attested by the loud reaction to [President Dmitry Medvedev’s] opus “Forward, Russia!” But Medvedev’s modernization project bears a distinctly artificial character and is aimed at a single goal – to redo the decorations while maintaining the nature of an authoritatian-kleptocratic regime.

We state that the sociopolitical construction that is killing Russia and has now bound the citizens of our country has one architect, one custodian, and one guardian. His name is Vladimir Putin.

We declare that no essential reforms can be carried out in Russia today as long as Putin controls real power in the country.

We declare that the dismantling of the Putin regime and the return of Russia to the path of democratic development can only begin when Putin has been deprived of all levers of managing the state and society.

We declare that during the years of his rule, Putin has become the symbol of corrupt and unpredictable country that is pitiless in its treatment of its own citizenry. It is a country in which citizens have no rights and are for the most part in poverty. It is a country without ideals and without a future.

If, as the Kremlin propagandists love to repeat, Russia was on its knees during the Yeltsin period, then Putin and his minions have pushed its face into the filth.

In the filth of the authorities’ contempt we find not only individual rights and freedoms, but human life itself as well.

In the filth of a false and feeble imitation of political and social institutions – from the bureaucratic phantom of United Russia to the Nazi-like Putin Youth.

In the filth of soul- and mind-warping televised obscurantism that is turning one of the most educated nations in the world into a soulless, amoral mob.

In the filth of total thievery and corruption emanating from the very pinnacle of Russian power. If not for the years in which Putin roamed the galleries of the Kremlin, the billionaires of his inner circle –Abramovich, Timchenko, the Kovalchuks, Rotenberg – would not exist. Nor would the parasitical state corporations of his friends – these black holes of the Russian economy.

Having begun his rise to power with the epical statement about “wiping them out in their outhouses,” Putin over the course of nearly 11 years has used this universal “tool” of ruling the country, and it has proven particularly effective in regard to his political opponents and business competitors.

Any political, social, or economic dissent is immediately suppressed: in the best cases, by administrative restrictions, but often by the bully clubs of the riot police, by criminal prosecution, by physical violence, and even by murder. Putin has proven that he is willing to destroy his personal opponents by any means available.

During the time that Putin has been at the pinnacle of state power, everything that could be ruined has been ruined. Pension and administrative reforms have been undone. There has been no reform of the armed forces, the secret services, or the law enforcement and judicial systems. The health-care system remains in its previous, pathetic condition.

The decline of education and science, which has been farmed out to the Ozero cooperative group, has reached the point where the “titans” of Russian scientific thought must be considered people like Petrik and Gryzlov.

Ten whole years have been lost – years when a boom in hydrocarbon and metals prices could have been used to modernize the country and carry out a structural reorganization of the economy. That is why the blow of the global economic crisis hit Russia so mercilessly, and it is far from over for us.

Having been named prime minister by Yeltsin, Putin not only was unable to correct the fatal mistakes made by his predecessors and put out the flames in the Caucasus, but his policies managed to raise that conflict to a new level that is capable of destroying the integrity of the country.

The “Kursk,” the Nord-ost theater, Beslan, the tens of thousands who died in the internecine second Cacasus war, the thousands who have lost their lives in infrastructure disasters, who burned in homes for the elderly and the handicapped that were unfit for human habitation, the dozens of murdered journalists and human rights activists and political opponents of the regime, and the ordinary victims of sadistic police lawlessness – these are the gravestones of the years of Putin’s rule.

These are the unexposed secrets of the Putin regime: the [1999] entry of [Shamil] Basayev into Daghestan; the explosions of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk; the so-called training exercise in Ryazan.

People have long since stopped being surprised by Putin’s incapacity for strategic thinking. He is unable to see what the world will be like in 10-15 years and what place Russia can and must occupy in it. He is not capable of evaluating the real threats and risks facing the country, and that means he is in no position to correctly plan possible moves or identify potential allies and rivals.

A clear illustration of these short-sighted polices are the recent surrender agreements with China, in which Putin lightly erased the Russian Far East and Siberia off the map.

Further evidence of Putin’s lack of understanding of the future is his maniacal passion to build gas and oil pipelines in all thinkable and unthinkable directions; his initiation of expensive, ambitious projects (like the Sochi Olympics and the bridge to Russian Island), which are absolutely wrong for a country in which a large portion of the population lives below the poverty line.

Having temporarily moved form the presidential chair to the prime minister’s offices and having left in the Kremlin an obedient placeholder who is “of the same blood” – a modern Simeon Bekbulatovich – Putin has created an openly unconstitutional construction for governing the country for life.

It is obvious that Putin will never voluntarily relinquish power in Russia. His fierce intention to rule for life is no longer based on a thirst for power itself so much as on the fear of being held responsible for what he has done. For the Russian people, this is humiliating. But for the country it is fatally dangerous to have a ruler like Putin. This is a cross that Russia can bear no longer.

As the Putin grouping feels it the ground falling from under its feet, it could at any moment move from targeted repression to mass repression. We are warning law enforcement and security agency officers not to stand against their nation, not to carry out criminal orders from corrupt officials when they send you out to kill us for Putin, Sechin, and Deripaska.

Now the national demand at demonstrations from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad must be the call “Putin Must Go!” Ridding ourselves of Putinism is the first, obligatory step on the path to a new, free Russia.

-- Robert Coalson


Tags: dissent,politics,Russia

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Irene
March 11, 2010 21:15
Looks like a new Surkov's initiative to identify and to take under control the most brave dissidents to the regime...
In Response

by: Kingston from: London
March 13, 2010 11:54
Surkov has gone beyond his imagination.Why cant he contribute instead of spoiling Russia.Has he been bribed by the west?of been playing chess?

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
March 11, 2010 22:03
Very nice words, some of them true. Democracy, however, is less about deposing the tsar than paying your taxes, getting an education and voting during elections. Your average Russian likely understands that should they storm the parliament building and run Putin out of town, his place will likely be filled with someone much worse from the gutter.

by: rkka from: USA
March 12, 2010 23:00
The best indication of this Putin-inflicted degradation since 1991 is that wages have increased vastly and are actually paid instead of being stripped off by Oligarchs to offshore bank accounts, male life expectancy is up by over three years, and Russians once again believe that Russia is a fit place to have and raise children.

Really, Coalson, giving clueless buffoons like the authors of this bloviation a platform is doing them no favors. All you're doing is showing their cluelessness and buffoonery to a larger audience. Thanks!

by: Kingston from: London
March 13, 2010 11:53
This is real mockery of politics.The whole world knows although Putin is a authoritarian he unpredicatbly got Russia out of trillion dollar debt much to the expectations of the west afte Gorbachev toppled Soviet Union.I feel none of the world leaders are doing good viz, Italy, UK, USA and no PM enjoys such a popularity among public.High time people started thinking about what they can do rather than playing chess and playing blame games.Imgaine where Russia was when it was born and where it is now.It all goes to Putin..any doubts?Indeed he was voted as Times Man of the year once...and by the way which politician is clean.Iraq had millions of civilians killed, Afghanistan has been totally displaced all because of ambitious NATO plans digging into others pocket.Now they are aiming in middle east.Hope not an other war.

by: Ozzy from: UpstateNY
March 15, 2010 01:43
RFE/RL are nothing more than prop ads for the State Dept's lofty goals. We have a a lot of nerve advocating the overthrow of an elected leader who stabilized Eurasia for us. That is why Time Mag named him the man of the year, who do you think approved NATO's overland routes through Russia and former Soviet States to the Afghan Help Us Project in 2009? - Putin did, grow up kiddies and decide what ya want OIL or Corporate Democracy!
In Response

by: Eoin from: Dublin
March 15, 2010 23:28
People seem to have a very skewed view of the criteria for winning Time Person of the Year. It is not awarded due to a person's calibre but their impact on the media (largely linked to the amount of Time Articles that they feature in).

For the record, I think Putin is dangerous dangerous character with a serious authoritarian bent.
In Response

by: God from: Heaven
March 16, 2010 14:28
So true. Hitler made Time's Person of the Year.

by: tegwyn johns from: england
March 18, 2010 17:35
is it not time he looked after his people, not go chasing dreams,

by: Pat from: Chicago
March 20, 2010 03:30
From the Russians I know I hear it has become a dangerous country for outsiders.
The average person struggles tremendously in much poverty with difficulty finding food or fresh food and medications which in their ability is too expensive to buy. The people, many of them kind and hopeful people are giving up hope. Let us pray for the Russia and her people that they may find hope, peace and a little sanity in government. With a change they might have a fighting chance to improve things.

by: XanKregor from: Motherland!
March 21, 2010 10:08
Manifesto failed! We choose Putin next time. No more revolutions in Russia. Putin go go go! We know some enemy of our land scare Putin, thats why they regulary typing BS like this. Just leave us, go home u have anough trobles at urs countrys.

by: Ozzy from: UpstateNY
March 21, 2010 17:33
Well EURO/INTL folks, come to the America you discovered some 400yrs and founded and you will find the worst in yourselves X a factor of 1000, greed, manifest destiny, slaughter of innocence, corporate democracy and million's of poor living on the streets of the inner city. Poor Russians, how about Poor Americans (we are 10 Trillion USD in debt, `worse than Greece or the so-called PIGS of the Eurozone.' Go out on the streets of DC after the `Power Brokers' are in after 10p and you will find Churchill's weak underbelly of American Society. By the way ... the Mr. Putin is dangerous and Time Mag comments w/most media exposure (aka Hitler paradody), well Mr. Bush and now Mr. Obama (Time Mag Man) are technically responsible for the deaths of 1.5 Million Iraqi and about 20-50,000 Afghan civilians (according to Lancet and others) since the highly dubious Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. And they are also directly responsible for the death of around 10-15,000 American Servicemen/women. I would consider that a much larger infraction on humanity, BUT you too are drowned in Russophobia by SKYNews, and the BBC Regionals, ITN, - just like we are with CNN, and FOX. Wake up and smell the Java or your Tea! I don't see Putin and Medvedev blatantly harming their people at all, except that Mr. Putin has been there 10yrs now and the West does not like it, has not the Queen and her family ruled the British Isles for some 100yrs ??? I see `NO one screaming there?'
In Response

by: Drivel from: Europe
March 26, 2010 17:53
It`s the decline of former empire and its influence the Kremlins are worried about. They can`t handle it. They want it back and want it soon, using different methods - revisionism, propaganda, lies, bullying and using force against smaller non-equal neighbours, building direct oil pipelines to some bypassing others to extort later using energy as weapon, you name it and it`s probably there.
And that`s why alina below is willing to die for Putin, cos she`s insured by the man (through putin controlled TV stations of course) that as long as i`m your czar i`m going to provide you stability and imperial greatness in the future. Like stalin. at the expense of others- but don`t think, don`t stick your nose to my business and surely any moral and ethical valuations leave to me (there`s none btw).
Without Putin- with the passed decade of strong oil and raw material prices and with modern leadership, the RF would have probably been in different place by now. but its not, that`s why this petition.
In Response

by: Ozzy from: UpstateNY
March 30, 2010 16:49
Dude ... the RF an CCCP had strong revenue in the 1990s and 1980s and it was squandered away, if she needs to be mad, then suggest Gorby, the CPSU or The Yeltsin Clique that you suggest would have provided more Democracy ... really ... did you see the T-80s firing on the RF's White House/Duma in 1993 on CNN, and the arrest of all his Westernized supposedly Pro-Russian Democrats who tried to depose him ... that brought your wanted Neo-liberal Western Democracy to its `death knees,' not the Duo of Medvedev/Putin!

by: Alina from: Russia
March 24, 2010 17:03
You on what argue?
The people of Russia DIE of benefactors Putin and Medvedev.
It is told to you by the person Soviet and Russian.
Anything similar was not since fascism and Stalin.
Comments page of 2

The Power Vertical Feed

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

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.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014


09:09 November 21, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:

Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)


16:55 November 19, 2014


Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014


MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014


Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014


14:47 November 19, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)


President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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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