Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: A Tragedy And A Turning Point

Armed pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine walk past next to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Armed pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine walk past next to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

It was the day the Russia-Ukraine crisis went global, claiming the lives of nearly 300 people from at least 12 nations spanning across five continents.

Details are still emerging about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jetliner in eastern Ukraine on July 17, apparently by a surface-to-air missile.

But the circumstantial evidence is mounting -- and appears to point to separatist culpability.

And what had been a localized conflict has suddenly, and dramatically, become a major threat to international security.

Will the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 be a game changer in the months-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine? And if so, how?

On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, I discuss this issue with Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows;" and Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine "Neprikosnovenny zapas."


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 18, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 18, 2014i
|| 0:00:00

Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Power Vertical podcast,Flight 17

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: American Tolerast
July 18, 2014 19:31
For decades, we have rhetorically speculated that enough chimpanzees provided with enough tools would eventually duplicate human civilization. Now, thanks to Russia, we know this to be untrue.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 21:43

Russia abandons its demands to transfer land, property and
people as serfs of former USSR and E. Europe nations,
in this case Ukraine, to Moscow elite, as pre-condition of peace, or rather no-invasions and no-blockades from Russia.

Ukraine and other CIS nations reenter again and again that
their intensions is be free nations and have fear trade with
West and East, including Russia, and be careful not to make
unclear statements induced by Russian KGB-GRU telepaths.
You are independent nations, you don't have be so afraid
of Russian and USSR telepaths so you sometimes talk like
you obliged by "Stervyatnik's" hyena game to use you as
"Shakalka" bitch luring the rest of the World into Russian trap.

If the first two conditions met, Russia must pull-out its deadly pins from bodies of other nations.
There is no separatists, THEY ARE RUSSIAN INVADERS!
If not - let World see such truth all through AND DECIDE!

Technically, most important point:
Putin, you demand Ukraine negotiate with special forces assassins from Russia!
Must Ukraine negotiate with "Strelkov" and "Bess"?
The only negotiating possible with representatives of local population, freed from intimidation by "Stervyatnik" occupiers
with guns.

by: Joseph from: New Zealand
July 18, 2014 19:38
Long time lurker, first time poster. I must say, some of the comments I've seen from time to time here seem pretty kooky!

Even though the news is barely a day old, I've been anticipating such a discussion on this disaster, given that you are experts on all things Kremlin, and especially given the discussions you have been having on several recent podcasts about the dangers of an out-of-control situation in the Donetsk region.

Who could have predicted such an act like this would happen though? Sadly, not the airline in question.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 19, 2014 19:35
Predictability is a game of Ru-"Stervyatnik".
One of its role-model "Benvuto Chellini", pedik,
Whose father predicted competitor brake his legs.
Floor beams on second floor, were cat-in krafty,
The victim broke legs - so "Stervyatnika Vek",
Predict danger, than makes it happen. Lofty.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 20, 2014 17:48
Konstantin, what happed to you today? Why are your comments so concise all of a sudden? No time? Mucho estres en el trabajo? (to be continued :-)))

by: Bohdan from: Canada
July 18, 2014 20:24
Great podcast.

You mention the second half. Will it be posted?

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
July 19, 2014 02:04
I tend to agree with your assessment as to which party is responsible for this crime. However, loud denial remains a favorite strategy when the criminal is caught red-handed. I spend considerable time monitoring Russian state media, and I’ve seen no indication that the criminal is about to confess to his crimes. Indeed, just the opposite. For those who know Russian, here is a fresh example:

Given the competing Russian-western narratives, if this is a ‘turning point’ it is headed even deeper into the chasm of conflict.
In Response

by: Bill
July 21, 2014 16:54
Plenty of reasonable doubt Ray.

Come up with some conclusive proof and check back.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 19, 2014 17:24
"A turning point" :-)). A turining point will arrive this coming October/November when Ukraine will have run out of gas, will have started stealing Russian gas from the pipeline, Russia will then have turned out all the gas supply through the Ukrainian territory - and what remains of Ukraine will be sitting in cold appartments during the winter.
The economy of the "country" will collapse as a result, and the "country" itself will have desintegrated into a plethora of warring regions. And Russia will then jump in and pick and choose the regions it needs. And George W Obama and Hillary will be standing by, stupidly looking at things happen (the way they have been doing in Syria for the last 3,5 years), talking nonsense and having no idea what to do next.
This will be the real turing point, whereas the story with the plane will have been fogotten a month from now...
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
July 21, 2014 00:42
The future is still to be written. Anyone who tries to describe it as if it were a modern day Nostradamus' makes me think of your distinct compatriot who also claimed his Reich would last a thousand years.

But what I find really sad in your post is that you clearly like what you talk about. You seem to enjoy the plight that you predict for a country of over 50 million people. As if the people in question were not humans... as if only your contempt and hatred for those who don't like Russia were important, not the lives and happiness of actual human beings who deserve them as much as you do or as your mother.

No attempt to display some pity, some sadness for the plight of these people. No--only hatred. "Country" has to be in parentheses, little smiley emoticons have to be used to show the poison in your smirk.

And then, when you think of how many Russians think the same way you do -- is it really so surprising the Ukrainians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, the Georgians, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Romanians, the Bulgars, the Hungarians... pretty much every non-Russian people in the Warsaw Pact or in the old USSR decided they don't want to live with such neighbors?

If your neighbors talked about you like that, you wouldn't want them for neighbors. That Russians apparently think it surprising that the people they spew so much contempt on don't like it, is something that almost deserves a monument in and of itself.

Someday Russia will realize that one has never succeeded in attracting flies with vinegar. After it loses its Third Rome complex.

And of course, should it be the case that your prediction doesn't come true, and that Ukraine actually ends up as a unified and developed European country... you'll of course say it was all because of Western money. Yeah, because to a Russian, a Ukrainian could never do anything worthwhile... you know, those Untermenschen....
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 21, 2014 12:07
:-)) Wow, Asehpe, we are getting pathetically emotional today, aren't we :-))?
I do believe that you happen to be WRONG on a number of accounts. First of all, Ukraine has never been "a country of over 50 million people": according to the Fischer Weltalmanach (2012), the population of UA was 46 mln two years ago. Since then, Crimea successfully suceeded (minus 2 mln people) and the large chunks of the Donbass are outside of the control of the Kiew fascist junta as well (minus 5 mln people more). So, it leaves us with a failed state with a population of some 39 mln people. So, do not exaggerate here bitte.
Second, Asehpe, you'll be surprised to discover that one DOES NOT HAVE TO be a Nostradamus to anticipate things: one has to have studied at university well enough in order to develop an analytical capacity that allows one to be able to see the link between cause and effect (something that most NATO decision "makers" certainly lack).
So, if one just has some info on the economic situation of UA and knows for sure that certainy things are HIGHLY LIKELY to happen (such as the discontinuation of gas supplies from Russia through the Ukrainian pipeline this coming winter) - it is really easy for one then, Asehpe, to arrive at certain conclusions, that, of course, might turn out to be incorrect at the end of the day, and yet AT PRESENT everything tends to point in the direction of an imminent failure of the Ukrainian economic and societal structure this coming winter.
Seriously, how do you expect these guys to pay for the natural gas the price that Gazprom wants to charge them? They simply do not have money! You think the German govt will pay instead of them? Well, if it is to be the case, this will really be a turning point and a game changer :-)).
Then, Asehpe, your passage on what "Ukrainians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, the Georgians, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Romanians, the Bulgars, the Hungarians" happen to think :-)). Asehpe, try to understand: the groups you are citing together account for some 150 mln people (plus minus...).
Ashepe, wake up: there some 7 bln people in this world and MOST OF THEM just HATE the United States and their friends. I will not waste my time here to list again all the heinous crimes committed by this "nation" from the very moment of its birth - if you are "unaware" of those, it's just that you consciously choose to live in lie. But the fact remains: JUST SO MANY people in this world simply despise the nation of Beavuses and Buttheads that no amount of cheap propaganda coming from you (or anyone else) can somehow distract people's attention from this fact. No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo, Asehpe, poor thing...
Just look at the meeting of the BRICS (Brasil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) who last week created a set of multilateral financial institutions of their own - the institutions that will put the last nail in the coffin of the erstwhile US domination over the global economy. What do the Czechs, Hungarians and others you mention think about all that? Very frankly, WHO CARES. The world is moving ahead, and the MULTIPOLARITY is a reality TODAY already, and that's why all those who chose to be with the nation of George W Obama are DOOMED to sit in COLD APPARTMENTS this coming winter. And they can blame for it only their own lack of judgement.
Cheers from Vienna!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 19, 2014 18:57
By the way, guys, one more indication that this event is a "tuning point" in your imagination only: while Anglo media goes out of its way trying to create more noise around this plane story, major continental European media is taking the thing much easier. Just look at the front pages of the main French and German media outlets (,, and you'll see that the plane is only ONE OF THE stories, but not the major one. The French, for example, are much more obsessed with the current street clashes between Arabs and Jews on the streets of Paris.
So, this "turning point" story will not take you too far in the desired direction, guys :-))
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
July 21, 2014 00:46
So is the whole Ukrainian war, Eugenio. Ah! how little you undertsand of other peoples!... Whiile in the Russian press, whereas they profess the same level of contempt for their 'slavic brothers' (about whom Kyrill was saying not so long ago that they were the same people, right?), they fail to demonstrate that by turning away from it. Ah, this is such an important conflict for the Russian press! It's so hard to see anything in it being a different viewpoint!....

Especially because you expect the 'game changing' to be in policy, when it will be mostly in psychology. It's the moment when people understand who Putin really is (someone who supports terrorism). It's not the moment when they stop saying nice things to him. No, that will come much later...

Sleep tight, and don't let the (pro-Russian) bed bugs bite!

by: flypaper from: NY
July 20, 2014 15:27
It now seems the terrorist will hold the bodies and blackbox from the crash and use them to blackmail the west into forcing the Ukrainians into a military cease fire, the terrorist are losing ground daily and will use any cease fire to regroup and rearm from Russia.
They plan on using the dead to further help themselves and Russia.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 20, 2014 18:07
What kind of "blackmail" can one possibly be talking about in this situation? The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People's Republic are defending their land against the invasion by the fascist Ukrainian death squads. A number of Ukrainian military jets have been shot down in the area since April, which has widely been publicised, including by this web-site.
So, as long as the above is widely known, why is it then that the International Aviation Authority has not redirected commercial flights away from the former Ukrainian territory? If there is anyone responsible for the tragedy, it is only them - it is their job to provide for secure air traffic, and moving this traffic away from war zones is quite obviously the first thing they have to do.
And then: it is the second time this year that a Malaysian jet has disappeared / been downed. Just a coincidence? Who knows...
In Response

by: Bill
July 21, 2014 16:56
Trying to reason with a feeble minded propagandist or someone influenced by such has limits.

by: Jordo from: QLD
July 21, 2014 01:46
hysteria about countries bordering russia needing more security is ridiculous! You are planning the war! Not Russia. Who did mh17 benefit? It's all obvious if you break down the anti-putin propaganda.

by: American Tolerast
July 21, 2014 08:12
Yepper. Clearly that European press is reacting to this with a collective big yawn. In six months, we'll truly have forgotten all about it.

Pooty. Ya dun goofed, hermano.

by: peter from: ottawa
July 21, 2014 17:00
The stench from the east is becoming more and more putrid. Herr Putin just shot himself in the foot let's all sit back and watch the rot set in. PG 13.
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

17:49 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014


17:26 October 24, 2014


17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)


A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

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