Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia's Gathering Storm

The Kremlin against the backdrop of a stormy sky.
The Kremlin against the backdrop of a stormy sky.
It's the last day of August. Summer is over. And there are storm clouds on the horizon.

Russia's political season is set to resume after a summer recess that was anything but quiet. And with local elections, opposition primaries, antigovernment demonstrations, and social reforms in the offing, the autumn promises to be even more turbulent.

In the latest edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I speak with special guest host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows"  about the upcoming political season.


Power Vertical Podcast -- August 31, 2012
Power Vertical Podcast -- August 31, 2012i
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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,Dmitry Medvedev,Russian opposition,Power Vertical podcast

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Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 31, 2012 20:29
Aha, beware, Putin, your last days are coming - just like the last days of Bashar al-Assad (who was removed from power last July, just as Hillary Clinton was promising), of Hugo Chávez (who died from cancer, as we know from a number of Western media outlets) or of Fidel (who died like several thousand times over the last 50 years). Stay tuned, because a lot more science fiction stories are coming on the web-site of the RFE/RL soon!!!

by: Jack from: US
September 01, 2012 13:51
by RFE/RL propaganda the storms are gathering over Russia every day ever since Stalin shot almost all US-sponsored bolshevik commissars

by: Mark from: Victoria
September 01, 2012 20:03
Gathering political storms in Russia is an arguable point, although there is no evidence at present of anything particularly ominous: "opposition primaries", for example, will be online, and it's hard to imagine they will keep the Kremlin awake nights while there is every possibility they will dissolve into farce. But it's just conceivable somebody could actually venture something like a plan which suggests otherwise than, "I would do things exactly like Putin (such as relying heavily on energy returns to grow the economy), only the leader would be different and we would have lots less corruption", and that would be interesting. Similarly, there is no evidence whatsoever that the "antigovernment" movement is more alive than Elvis, and huge "antigovernment demonstrations" is just a wistful dream. I'm not trying to be a jerk about it or to suggest that life in Russia is dreamy - I'm just pointing out that the edgy atmosphere portrayed here exists largely in the author's imagination and I have seen no facts to contradict that reality, while the situations offered as evidence of a stormy political climate are unsubstantiated.

And the photograph actually features the Kremlin at night, while the full moon suggests it is not stormy at all.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
September 02, 2012 09:31
Wheather Russians like Eugenio and Jack are lying strait,
Or ironizing, they can't help it - sounding like lie-drop-outs.
If one lies, using double-negations, it doesn't make it right.
Are they think they can pass as Academicians, or doods?
For Her? To kill my mother - as Her wish is their comand?

Jack, are you lying that Stalin was killing the Americans?
Or confirming that Russia staffed USA with aparatchics?
Are you lying again that Aparatchics, sponsored by USA,
And that they are also Bolshevik-Commissar-hlopchiks?
Isn't it Her Canada and Obama's Russian Grandmother?

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
September 02, 2012 10:09
You Russians like symbolic killings.
Like some most talented Bashkiria children,
Killed over German Sweetzerland, Romanov's village.
Like Litvinenko, descandent of UNIA of Litvania and Polland,
Killed by "Polonium". Like Polish government, killed for Katyn'.

My mother was murdered at the end of blackmailing me CIA,
Staffed and instigated by Russia, including lying on me staff,
Eugenio and Jack. I defended her two weeks, but on 7th July
They killed her. Killing started before my birthday, three days.
It ended three days after birth of America, fourth of July - raff.

Russia is Great in its symbolic far going evil. God also Great.
After 1941 Christmus, as mutneous Russians joined the war
And Germans had total superiority in arms, Stalin asked pray.
All nations and religions prayed. Same night land was frozen,
German army superiority dezarmed, battle was lost for them.

I only ask Justice. Vengance is of God - sometime symbolic.
Wasn't it 7th July, just small reminder to Russian Cossacks?

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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

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."

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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