Friday, October 24, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia After MH17

Podcast -- Putin +  Flight MH17
Podcast -- Putin + Flight MH17

So what happens now?

From Vladimir Putin's odd midnight video statement to the Defense Ministry's Dr. Strangelove-like briefing, the week after the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has been littered with mixed and confusing signals in Russia -- at least on the surface. 

Meanwhile, Russia's oligarchs and much of the country's financial eite are getting increasingly nervous about sanctions and a prominent former finance minister warns that the country faces isolation.

On the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss the domestic impact of the downing of Flight 17. Joining me are Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Easern European Studies and author of "Sean's Russia Blog," and Merhat Sharipzhan, an analyst with RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 25, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 25, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Russian politics,Power Vertical podcast,Ukraine Crisis,Flight MH17

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: American Tolerast
July 25, 2014 22:49
Russia after MH17? Well, let's see. The Fuhrer is more beloved by peasants across the entire Reich than ever. Three hundred fewer liberast undermenshen are left to envy (along with cash, jewelry, and even makeup literally falling from the sky like manna from heaven), there are still plenty of migrants and gays to beat up, and vodka is still cheap. Another day in the world's most cultured and civilized so -HIC- ciety.
In Response

by: Viktor from: Russia
July 26, 2014 19:39
Is the world does not see the obvious. Ashamed of europe, shame of American power, as in kindergarten. How can you accuse anyone without providing any evidence.
In Response

by: CWEK from: UK
July 29, 2014 08:34
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 29, 2014 15:51
@Viktor: Ditto!
It's not like Mother Russia has ever sent supplies, arms, tanks, APCs, Mobile AAAs, Mobile AAA operators, Spetznaz operatives, FSB agents, cossacks, volunteer militia and mercenaries into Ukraine! Wherever would you get such a ridiculous notion!?

by: Mamuka
July 27, 2014 00:05
The host is correct to be impressed by Diane Feinstein coming out against Russia in this catastrophe. One may disagree with her overall political views (I certainly do), but we cannot dispute that she is a serious and honorable politician. That is why she has added her voice to the horrified in the wake of this terrible calamity.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 27, 2014 15:06
By the way, guys, for the last several months I have been spreading on this web-iste the disinformation, according to which Ukraine was going to desintegrate this coming winter. However, judging by the multiplication of reports on massive desertions from the Ukrainian army already now, I have to take my words back. Right now it does look likelier that the Ukrainian military will disintegrate this coming month of August already, and not in the winter as earlier promised :-)).
Cheers from Vienna and I will be on vacations for the next few weeks. So, Konstantin and Asehpe, please maintain the entertaining discussion and I will join you again as soon as I can :-)).
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 28, 2014 17:49
Ah, Yevgeniy! You've done excellent work on spreading the Absolute and Only Truth of the Great Bear Mother Russia! Every flaming, trolling, salvo you have launched against RFE/RL is a brick in the path to ultimate victory for Mother Russia! Bravo my lad, you've earned a vacation, and an award as well! Order of Stalin, First Class! But no pay raise. Your wage per comment shall remain as it is. Budgetary concerns, you understand.

But I will get you a discount on Vodka!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Brest
July 29, 2014 10:13
Thank zou verz much, Vladimir! No need to worrz about the paz rise - the looming defeat of the US-sponsored Kiew junta will be the best compensation one can onlz expect!
Liebe Gruesse from the West-Bielorussian citz of Brest (a verz clean citz with a rather relaxed life stzle) :-))!
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 29, 2014 15:43
Yevgeniy, you're a credit to the cause! It's almost as if you believe the filth you spew! You don't really believe it do you? Because if you do, no more discount on vodka - I won't enable you further in that regard.

At any rate, I wouldn't hold my breath for the fall of the "Kiew junta". Those dastardly Banderites are putting up one hell of a fight. They've got the terrorists - er, I mean peaceful volunteer community service activists - on the run. I will have to send more tanks across the border soon. Er, um, I mean, uh, what tanks?

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
July 27, 2014 16:38
Enjoyed the podcast, but I wonder if you are not over-emphasizing the purported allure of “Western civilization” for many Russians. For the past decade (or centuries, depending on the source), Russians have been told that the West/America is the source of evil. And while this is certainly false, Washington’s foreign policy track record over the past decade (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria etc…) would appear to support this narrative.

I also think that Russian propaganda today, compared to the Soviet period, is more constant and insidious. Modern Russians, just like their foreign counterparts, are plugged in 24/7, but given the Kremlin’s control over major media, the anti-Western/American message is hammered home all the time. This is particularly true for the younger generation, who only have the post-Soviet experience as their point of reference. From the few Russian surveys I’ve seen regarding MH 17, the overwhelming majority of Russians believe that Ukraine (or its “western handler”) was responsible for this disaster.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 28, 2014 04:53
Putin, one might give Russia benefit of the doubt in intensions
to down civilian plane, pinning it on misunderstanding between
GRU-Spetcnaz with trigger-happy bloody Russian Cossacks,
on one hand, and Moscow command on another.
But it is like "Stervyatnik" and its "Third Force"
are fully in charge and planed it!
All evidence point at it.
But why would we?
Russia continue its attempts to conquer Ukraine and CIS at large, to kill, to plunder, to enslave, to repopulate.
Insurgents and Russia destroying Ukraine.
Why Russia wouldn't recall its forces and recognize Ukraine?
Putin, it will be never anymore USSR, or Russian colonial Empire, as "Strana rabov, strana skotov" of "Sretvyatnik".
Withdrew and negotiate to have best of mutually beneficial trade and projects, but free and independent.
Any nation and any of its Citizens have right be free and live in dignity - it is the bottom line.
"Stervyatnik" will not master over Europe and Asia.
Apparently Putin, your Russia wish not agree with the
bottom line - "Stervyatnik" say "Na koleny Hohol" and
it will kill for it Ukraine and any other CIS nation...
Russia turning all World against itself, as it deserves.

by: Tanel from: Estonia
August 01, 2014 13:17
I am an avid listener of the program. Listening into latest podcast, I feel that for the sake of an objectivity when talking about downed commercial airliners it would have been good, along to the references to Soviet misdeeds, also to mention USS Vincennes incident during Iran Iraq war. Let´s be honest it was equally as bizarre as the latest account.

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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



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)







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."

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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