Friday, November 28, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia's Thought Police

He's keeping an eye on the Internet.
He's keeping an eye on the Internet.

Retweeting a Twitter tweet or liking a Facebook post that the Kremlin doesn't like can now land Russians in prison.

And salty language in theater performances, films, and the media can now lead to stiff fines.

The stated goal of the former is to combat extremism. The purported objective of the latter is to promote traditional values and preserve the "purity of the Russian language."

But few doubt that the real point of both is to tighten the Kremlin's control over discourse -- and therefore, over politics.

Will it lead to an Orwellian nightmare? Or a Kafkaesque theater of the absurd?

On this week's "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss these trends. Joining me are co-host 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 Merhat Sharipzhan, an analyst with RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.

Also on the podcast, we discuss a recent report about a Russian hacker group targeting Western energy firms.


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 3, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 3, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 03, 2014 19:09
Most of Russians cannot speak Russian,
Just the two hundred words of a drunken.
Presume Putin meant the ruling Prussian:
"Muter Volga Russkiy rechka dlya Fritzen"
Like Miller, Greff and he, the Shtirlitz-Putin.

If he mean Russians, what is pure Russian?
If he mean vulgarities of modern languages,
I agree, but what about old slang vulgarities?
They are part of a classic Russian-Prussian:
"Kak pozhivaete, Gusen-Fritzen-Ga-Ga-Ga?"

If they wants continue noble-size the Russian,
As did Peter the Great, how to get red of "y"?
It will solve one problem, "My ne tyrdy-byrdy!",
But that can make it as beautiful as Ukrainian,
Or as Georgian, Solgenitcin would say: "YYY!"

Don't pay attention to my jokes, brother Tatars,
"Y" mean not in language of horsemen of Steps
The same that Russian "Yyy, narisovalsya, obidno,"
Simply dry meat diet with little water pronunciations.

In Response

by: Ian from: New Zealand
July 08, 2014 22:06
In Regards to Konstantin, I am a New Zealander who has spent more than 20 years working in Russia, Russian is a beautiful language as it should be spoken. It appears that your spoken Russian is probably about as good as your bad English as above, you cannot even write steppes in English. !!
In Response

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
July 14, 2014 01:43
Stop nit picking, Ian, he's doing his best.

Me, I'm Irish & try to give people regards steppes you could write it also as степпес, couldn't you? Oh I say, "what a love view".

by: Christopher from: USA
July 05, 2014 18:04
Interesting, but I would like to hear a podcast about the gangs of Kiev including the Right Sector too.
In Response

by: Mamuka
July 07, 2014 11:32
I'm sure you can find such material at RT
In Response

by: Jan from: Czech republic
July 07, 2014 16:10
You mean that little small minor party that hardly got any votes in pres. elections?
Eh, why not.

by: Mamuka
July 06, 2014 00:49
It may be reassuring to western liberals to say that imposing laws to control the internet and speech show the "weakness" of Putin, but if the mere existence of such laws impacts behavior (as the panelists suggest), how can we say they are weak?

By the way, I recall once watching an American action film on Russian TV, where the audio is dubbed into Russian but you can still hear the English. The American actor addressed his enemy with a string of foul obscenities, but in Russian all you heard was "eh, koziol."
In Response

by: jojnjo from: Dublin
July 14, 2014 01:48
Well then...what you heard was censorship.

I repeat, эх, Koziol ".

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 09, 2014 09:12
Modern Russian language Russians understand and use:

There is an opportunity to help the World and rectify problem even more.
I have a better syntheses of Ideas to help Ukraine and European Union.
Do not let it be plagiarized, thought, to anybody, including yourself.
Europeans must build part of "South Stream" - without Russia,
Only western part, starting with Balkans, using the same
Plans and investments of non-Russian participants,
Connecting it to Sea Terminal that can be used
In case of any emergency, like aggression.
Also, restore "Nabuko" project through
Georgia, also ending it, depending on
Prospects, with Sea Terminals, until
It would be economically feasible to
Connect both systems. A Stage-like
Economic estimate will help with the
Dynamic approach, the construction
And the changing of World situation.

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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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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