Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia's Looming Ukraine Hangover

Too many shots of Strelkov?
Too many shots of Strelkov?

The nationalists are feeling betrayed and they're getting restless. The public is getting nervous about the costs of absorbing Crimea. The elite is getting jittery about the effect of sanctions. And the infighting among the siloviki over the spoils of war is intensifying.

After every party, comes a hangover. And as we all know, hangovers are no fun.

In the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss Russia's new normal in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Joining me are Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows"; Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine"Neprikosnovenny zapas"; and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies and author of "Sean's Russia Blog."


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 11, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 11, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 11, 2014 18:13
all this is simply fantasy of RFE
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 09:23
What did you expect, Anonymous: Hillary told the RFE/RL to write a "story" on how Russia will have a "hangover" - so they have to write it. And if not, you know - the labour market is volatile :-)).
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 13, 2014 21:02
You know Hillary isn't in the government anymore? If you're going to have a conspiracy theory, try to at least keep an eye on who would be in charge.
In Response

by: Sasha from: Moscow, Russian Federatio
July 14, 2014 01:52
Sadly this is the reality of THE WORLD
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 15, 2014 15:10
Dear Anonymous, call it a conspiracy theory if you wish, but the ones in the US govt are not necessarily the ones who run the show in Washington DC. For example, the AIPAC has never been in the US govt, but - as anyone knows - these are the guys that pull strings behind all the Washington clowns, be it Hillary Clinton, sen McCain or Brian Whitmore.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 11, 2014 18:22
Aha, Russia is going to have a hang-over, Baschar al-Assad's days are numbered, George W Bush "accomplished" his "mission" in Iraq in 2003... Interesting and orginal stories...
What is happening in Ukraine now is the following: representatives of the Dnepropetrovsk clan are intensifying the massacre in order to distract the attention of the population from how this clan is eliminating its competitors from the economic arena (look, for ex., at Kolomoysky's call to "nationalize the possessions of those oligarchs who supports separatists").
In the meantime, this very clan is carring out hasty privatizations - in order to grab what remains in the state ownership (for ex., the Ukrnafta society - guess who will obtain it as a result of the privatization).
And normal people are already experiencing the beauties of this new life: hot water has been switched off for households in Kiew and Kharkiw, gas supplies to housholds have been cut by 30 % nationwide.
Welcome to this beautiful prosperous life that Victoria Nuland promised!
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 12, 2014 10:11
Real Problem for future of ukr
is when war will finish
and all this militias will be still existing and pretending to have their slice of cake .
Than ukr will be very near to somalia or libia .
Isn't a coincidence if julia Timoshenko is reported forming her own militia .
The future of ukr will be very similar to its past
When this land was in a permanent chaos situation
with bands of cosaks ridding all over the country
Good luck to people who lives in the country that don't exist
named ukraine
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 18:16
Hi, Anonymous, competely agree with your assessment that "ukr will be very near to somalia or libia". As far as Julia planning to form her own militia: only logical, just a "normal" security dilemma mechanism - once your neighbour starts forming a militia, you simply have to assume that he might use the latter to attack you and form a militia of your own in order to be ready to respond.
The critical moment will most likel be this coming winter: once Ukraine runs out of the gas it currently has, it will start stealing gas from the pipeline that channels the Russian gas to Europe. Russia will then switch off its gas supplies altogether, so Ukrainians will unfortunately have to sit in cold appts in the month of December. And it will simply be too late to take any measures at that point: the country (just as you said) will just desintegrate into a conglomerate of warring regions, so Russia will have a chance of picking and chosing the ones it wants to have.

by: Jack from: US
July 11, 2014 18:26
the whole story about Ukraine can be expressed in one sentence:
the Ukraine is such a dumpster even Putin does not want it

by: Mamuka
July 11, 2014 22:05
To paraphrase the American humorist Mark Twain, the reports of the demise of Putin's power may be greatly exaggerated.

If Putin's Russia does indeed have a hangover, I hope they do not try to find their pokhmelye in Georgia. As the podcast notes, something has to be done with all the armed men from the "People's Republics."

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 12, 2014 11:44
It becoming apparent that real "Separatists" are Russian professional secret armies, GRU-Spetcnaz, infiltrating not unlike battalions of Yamadaev, Timmerman and "Zapad", only fiasco of Russia that enslave and repopulate "Slavic World" make them more careful than in Abkhazia or S. Ossetia.
Not too careful.
They leave trail of kidnapping, torture and killings of prisoners and civilians.
They are at the brake of unleashing in open "Beslan" scale crimes, forged once by GRU.
They loosing hope to enslave again Ukrainians, at least in East Ukraine (Na koleni rab Hohol!), but they don't leave.
Why not?
Waiting order from Russia?
Staying as leverage?
What Russia wants?
To bargain for equal partnership of Ukraine with EU and Russia?
But it was offered by Ukraine from beginning!
Let's wait for coming negotiating of Ukraine, EU and Russia.
Still, why people have to be killed?
Are Russian leaders and GRU condemned their men to commit war crimes and be exterminated?
Or they still hope conquer Ukraine, to scream: "Na Koleni!"?
It went far enough - Russia becoming enemy of Caucasian Race and Human Civilization, including lured by Russian propaganda Slavs and Eastern Christians!

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 16, 2014 07:12
I have to offer new-old terminology to call evil of Russia.
Some used "Russkie bl..i" - unfair to good half of Russians.
Some used "Varyazhskie" - unfair to some Varags in
number of countries, or so they say, affiliating too by error.
Why not use well known name "double-faced Stervyatnik"
for Czarist Tyranny and "Bolshevik Stervyatnik" for red Tyranny?
Or simply "Stervyatnik" for any Russian tyranny, specially because they attempt to merge?
Or, if angry - "Pleshivyiy Stervyatnik"…

Ukraine was for 300 years betrayed, plundered-enslaved
by "pleshivyiy Stervyatnik".
East Ukraine had substantiall influx of Russian occupiers,
"holodomoring", bestially killing, squeezing and intimidating people, acting as stealing for Russia "tax" collectors, even in Soviet times.
"Stervyatnik" is a parasite-terrorist there: "Na koleny Hohol,"
as their bosses "Stervyatrniks" in Russia and formerly occupied republics, with their secret armies, including
"oboroten's" that destroy lives and property,
pining it on Ukraine.

Most of Ukrainians partially recuperated lately, not as
intimidated as Eastern Ukrainians, but still were plundered
by the same "Stervyatnik" and its influx till late Maidan
The attempt of Ukrainians be free from serfery,
when Yanukovich signed transfer of Ukraine as property
to Miller-Putin, infurriated "Sterrvyatnik" answered by bullets
and perpetual invasion by GRU-Spetcnaz.

West Ukraine at large is like most of Ukrainians, only they
have minorities of once parts of neighboring countries,
before WW2, including those that were fighting for free
Ukraine since Russian Revolution, but some of them
forced by "Stervyatnik's" hate and later Nazi Germany
fought on the wrong side of the Global war.
War criminals died in combat, the rest got amnesty,
however, when Stalin was put under house arrest in1947,
KGB and Army of "Stervyatnik" started force some of them
and their children snitch for "Stervyatnik" and even
act as pseudo-pro-Nazis - use it to blame Ukrainians for
trying be free.
Leaving aside national question, Ukraine must be
independent country and live in dignity.
West Ukrainians must be careful not to be used by invading
"Stervyatnik" as "Zhupel" for invasion.

Errors of CIS nations...
(Will continue)
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 04:40

All that enable Russia to do things to other nations was forged
by Russian ruling race (and its military), Varag-Prussak,
through history, last time since 1947-49, specially since
secret pact with Bechtel and Brits, 1954-56.
Old nomenclature in USSR was replaced by those that had no honor of independence of their nations, even it was limited in USSR.
New leaders are about the same, mind controlled by KGB-GRU.
It is why Russian imperial "Stervyatnik" so easy made one
after another leaders of Belorussia, Kazakhstan and some
others, including Yanukovich, sign agreement with Russia
to give-up as property land, industries, housing and people
and be serfs of Moscow.
It is why Ukraine's people protested.
Read bible!
Leaders of former USSR republics and E. European countries
weather installed, or misunderstand, or hypnotized by Russian
agencies, if they agree their nations vanish as property of Russia.

Friendship of non-Russian nations that built USSR property
was never sheared by ethnic ruling race of Varyag-Prussak.
They offer to Russia mutually beneficial trade and projects,
but Russia don't accept it.
Russia pressure them to be part of new Russian Union, with
repossession all they own by Moscow elite and becoming
also property, like serfs.
If not, they force them to be part of EU controlled by Germans,
blame them for it, invade, conquer and promise parts of E. Europe countries to Germany and Austria, according to 1954
pact, as it was in Czarist times.

It is where are all pre-planed by "Stervyatnik" errors.
Any nation must be free and live in dignity.
Any region of E. Europe and former USSR can as they wish
cooperate with each other as regional common wealth.
Regional Common Wealth or country can be part of larger
common Wealth, not necessary only one, like EU and CIS.
That would, with prudent legal agreements, make progress
much better that in former USSR, expanding possibilities
of human and other resources for mutual beneficial trade,
projects and assistance.
Russia sabotage it externally and internally.
They using stolen gas and oil to pipe it to partners in 1954
pact, resurrect colonial empires, to supply and addict them,
to ask them built in Russia industries, steal for elite of pact
partners billions, while conquering E. Europe and C. Asia.
Putin said they still need Ukrainian motors and rockets,
as security excuse for aggression.
But Russia refused for number of years buy it from Ukraine,
building similar plant by Germans.
What happened with it Putin? German project is just an outlet
to transfer stolen money, as was once "Villuy", built all too long
by Bechtel?
Ukraine always liked to trade with Russia and CIS, it is Russia
that blockade all neighbors, wile dancing on Bundfershaft with
imperial pact partners!

(Will continue)

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 04:44
CIS Leaders, knowing or not, don't state clearly their positions
internationally and publicly.
Russia installed provocateurs in all former republics.
Pro-Russian Yanukovich sold Ukraine to Russia - didn't work.
In Ukraine few KGB-GRU Russian occupiers agents played
"Bandera" - it didn't work, Maidan asked Lviv block them from
coming there.
Still Russian prepared propaganda unleashed lies about "Nazi
Ukraine invading Russia" - don't work.
It would be expected new President would be more clear on the issue of EU and Russia, but he still saying that Ukraine is Europe (as say Saakasahvili) and that they ended forever with their old soviet past.
It isn't clear even for me.
Who is hypnotizing them and why?
Are, ordered by Russian spies, they subconsciously mislead
West, for Russia to conquer the World?
Georgian, Ukrainian and other CIS nations were never
"Chakalka" bitch to lure World into crick full of Russian
Their leaders must state clear - they are independent nations
and want just trade and project with West and East.
They must say clear that security matters are threatened by
Russia and non-Russians ask for international assistance
only as minimal self-defense from Russian invaders, as it goes.
Will Russians withdraw from invaded countries?
Maybe not - but all World must be clear about the truth.
I don't think Russia, even its bloody "Stervyatnik", is mad
enough with whole truth known to the World drag the World
into Global war.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 12, 2014 18:28
by the way, guys, you might have noticed that Putin has just visited Cuba and Nicaragua and is heading to Buenos Aires where he will meet presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Once Russia has installed its ICBMs in South America, it seems to me that someone else is going to have a hangover :-)).
And as Che used to say: "Hasta la victoria siempre!"
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2014 05:10
And in the meantime, the BRICS (Brasil, Russia, India, China, S. Africa) will sign tomorrow (Tuesday) a treaty that will create a BRICS Development Bank that will rival with the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF, WB) which will render yet another blow to the US hopeless aspirations of dominating the global finance. One more reason for someone to have a hangover...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 14, 2014 13:28
VIDEO: The Truthseeker: 'Genocide' in Eastern Ukraine (E43) -

by: American Tolerast
July 12, 2014 22:44
Vova's parting gift will be to make the civilized world miss his comparatively sane company, because now inevitably his successor will be a true believer in the Russian messianic-supremacy that, to him, is mere useful idiocy for pandering to the peasants. Then it will be time to hold open our doors for all gays, Jews, Muslims, liberals, and all other designated "untermenschen" who manage to escape the Eurasian killing fields with their lives.

Absolutely nothing good can come from the cultural abyss on Europe's eastern edge. In the 90s, we let a silver-haired drunk lull us into a false sense of optimism that Russia might someday be a proper neighbor and a cultured member of the world community worthy of respect. Putin corrected us, and for that alone we should be eternally grateful to him. If not eternally, than at least for two or three decades until Russia's next contraction when we again convince ourselves with that same soothing lie from 1917 and 1991, "They're different this time. They can be trusted now."

by: JLNancy
July 13, 2014 06:02
IMO one soundbite says it all > (Mark Galeotti) "...Kremlin would be pretty stupid..."

Yeah, it is.

So...imagine a scoundrel rapes and tries to murder his victim whilst folks sit around and *chat* re how humiliated this perp-on-a-pedestal will be when his *reputation* plummets.


Convince the victim, the victim's family and friends that they're supposed to CARE about such discussed sterile rationalizations.

Then persuade them that they have to politically and peacefully *negotiate* with that scoundrel (who's, also, suffering from a hangover). It'd be like talking to a head of lettuce.

*The party's over* mentality re Russia's crime is morally repugnant, asinine, arrogant and brutally stupid. NSFL

For Scoundrel Putin (and the current Putin pirates in eastern Ukraine), *crime pays*. Now, that's a bitch.

by: Anonymous
July 14, 2014 14:01

by: Michael Hammerschlag from: Kiev
July 16, 2014 01:28
Yes, indeed- I said Putin has unleashed titanic forces with his Crimean coup alone that would probably sweep him from power in 4-5 years. Now he is trapped with escalating and becoming more of a murderer + thug and reaping even more condemnation... and getting attacked by Russia's whack-job nationalist right for "losing the Donbass". When you breed Frankenstinian conflicts, you can't necessarily control them.

But your discussions are too sterile and lacking in moral outrage- another Maidan acquaintance of mine was just killed in the East, human rights Russian journo Andre Mirinov was a friend (killed w Italian photog by Sep mortars). For Ukrs it's not a geopolitical game- its life and death of a nation- one that had an empire 300 years before Moscow existed.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 16, 2014 12:21
You are absolutely right when you say that "For Ukrs it's a life and death of a nation" question, and the disintegration is, of course, going to be an inevitable consequence of the state failure process that was launched by the Euromaidan on November 21st last year.
As you see, Crimea has already successfully seceeded from Ukraine (I can imagine how happy people there are right now seeing what is going on in the rump-Ukraine).
Donbass is successfully fighting a war of secession of their own right now (the punitive action of the Kiew junta was launched more than 3 months ago (Apr. 15th) and they are nowhere close to accomplishing it.). By the month of November (in 3,5 months!!) Ukraine will have run out of the gas it currently has (according to Yats), Russia will have discontinued its supplies of natural gas to Europe throught the "Friendship" pipeline - so, people in Kiew, Lemberg and Dnipropertowsk will be sitting in their cold appts with temperatures of 20 below zero on the street.
What do you expect to happen to Ukraine then? Of course: a compelte economic collapse and the disintegration of the rump-state into a conglomerate of regions warring with each other.
And Russia will then jump it and pick up bits and pieces of what used to be known of Ukraine - the bits and pieces it needs, of course.
Alles gute, Michael, and liebe Grüße aus Wien! Don't forget to buy a stove that you can activate by burning wood if you plan to stay in Kiew this coming winter :-))!
In Response

by: JLNancy
July 17, 2014 07:56
ONLY a rhetorical question Eugenio etal LRT >

did the Russian Orthodox church (Third-Rome *morality*) or your own beloved mother that taught you to be such a viperous Russian troll...
or is it the: 8 hour shift, $36 a day with a cheap lunch thrown in (that one wouldn't feed a dog) job that make you a human being bereft of any Godly intelligence?

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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

18:26 October 31, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:



European leaders have welcomed a deal under which Russia is to restore natural-gas supplies to Ukraine but told Vladimir Putin that elections held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on November 2 will be illegitimate.

Russian President Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and French President Francois Hollande spoke in a four-way telephone conversation overnight after Ukraine and Russia sealed a deal meant to guarantee Russian gas supplies to Ukraine through March 2015.

All four leaders welcomed the gas deal signed late on October 30 in Brussels, a German government spokesperson said, and a Kremlin statement called the agreement "an important step in the context of the future provision of uninterrupted transit of gas to Europe."

But a statement from Poroshenko's office said "Ukraine, Germany and France expressed (the) clear common position that they would not recognize the elections planned by separatists."

It said the elections on rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions would contradict an agreement reached in Minsk on September 5 and aimed to end the conflict between Kyiv and the pro-Russian rebels, which has killed more than 3,700 people since April and poisoned East-West ties.

It said Poroshenko, Merkel, and Hollande "urged Russia not to recognize those elections as well."

Merkel's spokesman, Georg Streiter, said that "Merkel and Hollande underlined that there can only be a ballot in line with Ukrainian law."

He said the votes would violate the Minsk agreement and further complicate efforts to find a solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

"The German government will not recognize these illegitimate elections," Streiter told a news conference, adding that European leaders were united on this issue and had agreed on this at a summit last week in Brussels.

Moscow has made no formal recognition of the "people's republics" the separatists have proclaimed in Donetsk and Luhansk, and the Kremlin denies involvement in the conflict despite what Kyiv and NATO say is clear evidence that Russia has sent troops and weapons into Ukraine to help the separatists.

But in comments published on October 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would "of course recognize the results" of the separatists' elections.

The Kremlin statement about the telephone conversation made no mention of the elections.

It also said the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the implementation the September 5 agreement, and underscored the need to observe the cease-fire that was central to the Minsk deal.

The Kremlin said Russia believes the "the establishment of a steady dialogue" between Kyiv and the separatists would "undoubtedly" help stabilize the situation.

Kremlin critics say Russia supported the September 5 agreement because it followed rebel gains that left the separatists in control over large portions of Donetsk and Luhansk, potentially giving Moscow a lever of influence on Ukraine for years to come.

The November 2 balloting in the rebel-held regions comes a week after those areas stayed out of voting in in Ukraine's parliamentary election on October 26, in which pro-Western parties won a sweeping victory.

Poroshenko proposed on October 31 that Arseniy Yatsenyuk stay on as prime minister.

"I have proposed that the Petro Poroshenko Bloc put forward Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the post of prime minister," Poroshenko wrote on Twitter.

Yatsenyuk's People's Front party narrowly beat out the Petro Poroshenko Bloc in voting by party in the October 26 election, according to a nearly complete count.

But Poroshenko's bloc fared better in first-past-the-post voting and was positioned to take more parliament seats than the People's Front, according to election commission data.

Yatsenyuk is a vocal critic of Russia and is popular among Western governments for his support for economic reforms.

He is a target of criticism from Russian officials who say the  government that came to power in Ukraine after former president Viktor Yanukovych fled in February in the face of protests seized control in an illegal coup d'etat supported by the West.

Russia annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine in March, adding to tension that increased still further when the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted the following month.

The hard-fought gas deal provided what European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger called "perhaps the first glimmer of a relaxation" between Ukraine and Russia.

Russia had raised the price it was asking Kyiv pay for gas after Yanukovych's ouster and then stopped supplying gas to Ukraine in June, citing what it said was $5.3 billion in debt and demanding advance payment for any future supplies.

Oettinger said that under the accord, Ukraine will pay Russia $1.45 billion in gas arrears within "days" for Moscow to resume gas deliveries.

He said Russia will then "immediately" lower Ukraine's gas price by 100 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters.

Yatsenyuk, in figures later confirmed by Moscow, said Ukraine would pay $378 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of 2014 and $365 in the first quarter of 2015.

Kyiv will subsequently have access to Russian gas deliveries in exchange for pre-payment, according to Oettinger.

He said Ukraine also agreed to settle another $1.65 billion in arrears by the end of the year.

The deal is expected to include EU funding to help Ukraine pay.

Oettinger said, "we can guarantee a security of supply over the winter," not only for Ukraine but also for the EU nations closest to the region.

Ukraine normally relies on Russia for about the half the gas it uses, and the onset of winter made the need for a deal more urgent.

Russia also provides about one-third of the gas consumed in the European Union, with about half of that pumped via Ukraine.

The EU was seeking to avoid a repeat of 2006 and 2009, when Russia halted supplies to Ukraine amid price disputes, disrupting deliveries to Europe during two cold winters.

News of the agreement appeared to bring relief in Europe, with British wholesale gas prices for November and December falling to their lowest ever levels on October 31.

(With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP)


A Moscow court has extended by two months the detention of an Estonian police officer charged with espionage.

Lefortovo Court spokesperson Yulia Sotnikova said on October 31 that a judge had "granted a request from investigators to prolong the period of detention until January 5" of Eston Kohver.

Kohver was detained on September 5 on espionage charges.

Moscow claims Kohver was seized inside Russia, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border.

The case has strained relations between Russia and Estonia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


The European Union has launched a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Russian import duties on some European agricultural and manufactured goods.

The Geneva-based international arbitration body said on October 31 that the EU accuses Russia of levying tariffs on several types of goods that are above the legally binding tariff ceilings that Moscow has agreed to within the WTO mechanism.

Those goods include paper and paperboard, palm oil, and refrigerators.

Under WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to work out a mutually agreed solution. After that, the EU could ask the WTO to adjudicate.

The dispute is the fifth involving Russia and the EU at the WTO.

The European Commission's spokesman for trade issues, Wojtek Talko, said the case was not a complaint against the recent ban on Russian food imports from Europe.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa)


The Russian central bank said it would raise interest rates from 8 percent to 9.5 percent as Western sanctions and falling oil prices have sent the Russian ruble plummeting.

The Bank of Russia's board of directors made the decision to raise interest rates at an October 31 meeting.

The central bank had increased the rate to 8 percent in late July, following increased to 5.5 percent in March and 7.5 percent in April.

The United States, European Union and other nations have imposed successive rounds of sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Russia annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine in March, and Kyiv and NATO accuse Moscow of aiding pro-Russian separatists with troops and arms during a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 3,700 people in eastern Ukraine since April.

(Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, and AFP)



The U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan says that the Central Asian nation's "growing partnership with Russia" presents a challenge to U.S. efforts to support democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

In an article published on the website of the Council of American Ambassadors, Pamela Spratlen (eds: a woman) said the "strong partnership" that Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has forged with Russian President Vladimir Putin "has had its impact on our efforts."

"It remains an unanswered question how Kyrgyzstan can maintain its democratic trajectory while pursuing this partnership," she said.

Spratlen also said that many in Kyrgyzstan get their news from Russian media, and that in the case of the Ukraine crisis "the strident anti-American tone taken by Russian propaganda has crystallized local public opinion around Moscow's narrative of events there."

Kyrgyzstan has seemed to follow Moscow's lead on several issues recently, including drafting laws that legitimize discrimination against homosexuals and would require foreign-based organizations to register as "foreign agents."

(Based on Spratlen article:


Ukrainian authorities have filed charges and Russia's Union of Journalists is demanding an apology after a prominent Russian actor was filmed firing a machine gun near the Donetsk airport while wearing patches that identified him as a member of the press.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry on October 31 filed criminal charges against Mikhail Porechenkov for the pictures taken with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page, "Mikhail Porechenkov, present in Donetsk, personally took part in firing on units of Ukraine's armed forces using an automatic weapon."

Pavel Gutiontov of Russia's Union of Journalists called the incident "irresponsible behavior on the part of the actor" and demanded an apology.

Porechenkov said that it was a staged scene, that he was firing blanks, and that the only bullet-resistant vest and helmet he could find were labelled "press."

(Based on reporting by UNIAN, TASS, and Interfax)

09:54 October 31, 2014


Writing in Slon, Yakov Mirkin, chairman of the Department of International Capital Markets at the Russian Academy of Sciences Insititute of World Economy and International Relations, argued that the ruble could easily sink to 50 to the dollar.

The reasons? 

1) The ruble is overvalued anyway;

2) The dollar is rising against major currencies and this upward cycle is likely to continue;

3) Oil prices are falling;

4) A combination of Western sanctions and diversification of energy supplies

5) Capital flight from Russia continues apace.

And in light of Mirkin's argument, it is worth noting that he has consistently been arguing that the ruble is overvalued. Here he is speaking back in August 2013:

09:41 October 31, 2014


Russian journalist Ivan Sukhov writing in "The Moscow Times" on working in Ukraine:

"Russian journalists encounter no personal aggression while working in Ukraine. Only the rare local politician refuses to speak to Russian reporters.

And in place of perfectly understandable aggression, Russian journalists encounter only gentle Ukrainian hospitality along with a sizable share of condescending sympathy.

It is as if they want to tell us, 'We will stay here, where we have taken the responsibility for our future into our own hands, whereas you will fly home to Russia's stifling political atmosphere, to a country that futilely reconsiders the outcome of the Cold War and the people are caught up in a mass euphoria over the bloodshed in the Donbass.'"

Read it all here.

08:56 October 31, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:



Moscow and Kyiv have signed a landmark agreement that will guarantee Russian gas deliveries to Ukraine throughout the winter despite tense relations over the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The EU-brokered deal, which extends until March 2015, was signed at a ceremony in Brussels by the energy ministers of the two countries, Aleksandr Novak and Yuriy Prodan, and European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

Outgoing EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who oversaw the signing, hailed the agreement, saying, "There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter."

The hard-fought deal followed months-long EU-mediated negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv amid a long and bitter dispute over payments.

The agreement was reached after two days of marathon talks that had stalled before dawn on October 30 when Russia demanded that the EU first agree with Ukraine how to pay Kyiv's outstanding bills and finance gas deliveries through to March.

Oettinger said that under the accord, Ukraine will pay Russia $1.45 billion in gas arrears within "days" for Moscow to resume gas deliveries.

He said Russia will then "immediately" lower Ukraine's gas price by 100 dollars to around $385 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Kyiv will subsequently have access to Russian gas deliveries in exchange for pre-payment, according to Oettinger. He said Ukraine also agreed to settle another $1.65 billion in arrears by the end of the year.

The deal is expected to include EU funding to help Ukraine pay off its debts to Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom.

Oettinger said, "we can guarantee a security of supply over the winter," not only for Ukraine but also for the EU nations closest to the region.

He added that the deal "is perhaps the first glimmer of a relaxation" between Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine's Prodan said the "decisions taken today will provide energy security for Ukraine and the EU."

Moscow cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine in mid-June, citing a $5.3-billion debt and demanding that Ukraine settle its outstanding bills and pay up front for any future deliveries.

The dispute occurred amid Russia's conflict with Ukraine and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea in March and its subseqent military and political support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

With Ukraine relying on Russia for around 50 percent of its gas, the onset of winter made the need for a deal more urgent.

Russia also provides about one-third of the European Union's gas, about half of which is pumped via Ukraine.

The EU was seeking to avoid a repeat of 2006 and 2009 when Russia halted supplies to Ukraine, disrupting deliveries to Europe during two very cold winters.

But Russia's Novak said after the signing that Moscow will remain a "reliable supplier" of energy to Europe and the deal struck with Ukraine will ensure stable gas deliveries over the winter.

In reaction to the deal, the French and German leaders said in a joint statement that the EU will "fully play its role" to implement the gas deal.

Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel said they had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko earlier October 30, and all four "have welcomed the conclusion of negotiations on the delivery of Russian gas to Ukraine, achieved thanks to the mediation of the European Union."

(Based on live broadcast, with additional reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP)


By RFE/RL’s Armenian Service

YEREVAN -- Air Armenia, a passengar and cargo airline based in Yerevan, has suspended all passenger flights until at least December 20 over financial difficulties that the firm is blaming on Russia.

Air Armenia says it is unable continue regular passenger services because of a “panic” among investors and customers over a statement by Russia's federal air navigation service.

Russia's Rosaeronavigatsia announced on September 11 that it would ban Air Armenia from operating flights to Russian cities unless the company paid its outstanding debts by September 21.

Air Armenia said ihe statement damaged its business reputation and that, as a result, its fleet was reduced to one aircraft.

Other than Russian cities, the airline had been flying to Paris, Frankfurt, and Athens.

Air Armenia was founded as a cargo airline in 2003 and began operating commercial passenger flights in 2013 after the bankruptcy of Armavia.


A Moscow court has ordered the nationalization of a stake in an oil company owned by a detained tycoon.

The Moscow Arbitration Court ruled on October 30 the stake in Bashneft held by billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov's holding company Sistema would be returned to the state.

Prosecutors claimed the stake was illegally privatized by officials in Russia's Bashkortostan region.

The court said new claims could be filed after the worth of Sistema's stake in Bashneft was ascertained.

Yevtushenkov was arrested last month on charges of money laundering related to the acquisition of Bashneft.

His arrested sparked speculation that Russia's largest oil company, state-run Rosneft, would acquire Sistema's Bashneft shares.

Yevtushenkov is one of Russia's richest businessmen, with assets estimated to be worth some $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by AFP,, and Interfax)


By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

An online Russian news portal based in Latvia has been blocked in Kazakhstan over an article described by Astana as "inflicting ethnic discord."

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Investments and Development said on October 30 that the website published an article "propagating ethnic discord and threatening the territorial integrity" of Kazakhstan.

The article about ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan's eastern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk (aka Oskemen) is titled: "Ust-Kamenogorsk People's Republic. Are Locals Ready For Polite Green Men?"

‘Green Men’ refers to the deployment in foreign countries of Russian military forces wearing unmarked green uniforms – as Russia has done in the past in regions of Georgia and Ukraine.

The ministry also has filed a lawsuit against in connection with the article.

It says the website will remain blocked in Kazakhstan until a local court rules in the case.

(With reporting by Interfax)


By RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service

Kyrgyzstan's State Registration Ministry says that as of January 1, 2015, Kyrgyz citizens will no longer be able to enter the Russian Federation using their national identification documents.

Since 2007, Kyrgyz labor migrants have been travelling between the two countries with internal identification documents. Now they will have to obtain travel passports.

The regulation, announced on October 29, will affect hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz labor migrants who work in Russia and periodically travel between the two countries.

Moscow announced earlier this year that it wants to tighten by 2015 the regulations for entering Russia by nationals of former Soviet republics that are not members of the Russia-led Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Union.

In May, Kyrgyzstan signed a road map under which it is to join the Customs Union, which currently comprises Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, by the end of 2014.  


NATO said on October 29 that it tracked and intercepted four groups of Russian warplanes “conducting significant military manoeuvers” in international airspace close to the borders of the European Union during the previous 24 hours.

NATO’s SHAPE military headquarters in Mons, Belgium said: “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.”

It said the planes included strategic bombers, fighters, and tanker aircraft.

They were detected over the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Black Sea on October 28 and 29.

Russian bombers flew south all the way to international airspace west of Portugal and Spain.

Norwegian, British, Portuguese, German, Danish, and Turkish fighters were scrambled to intercept and identify the Russian planes.

Planes from the non-NATO nations of Finland and Sweden also responded.

Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, tensions between NATO and Russia have risen to the highest level since the Cold War.

(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)

18:33 October 29, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on October 29 that the Russian president is in good health, seeking to quash rumors of an illness.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow that "everything is okay" with Putin's health, Russian news agencies Interfax and TASS reported.

"They will wait in vain. May their tongues wither," Peskov said of those who claim Putin is ill.

Peskov spoke after a spate of Russian media reports referring to an October 24 column in the tabloid "New York Post" whose author, Richard Johnson, cited unidentified sources as saying Putin had pancreatic cancer.

Putin and the Kremlin have strongly discouraged reporting about the 62-year-old president's private life.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)


Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, is threatening to sue the Russian daily "Kommersant" for a report alleging Rosneft sent President Vladimir Putin proposals for countersanctions against Western companies and individuals.

"Kommersant" reported on October 29 that state-run Rosneft's proposals include limiting cooperation aboard the International Space Station, prohibiting burial of U.S. and EU nuclear waste in Russia, and possible confiscation of property in Russia owned by Western countries or their citizens.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, denied there were any Rosneft proposals for sanctions, but presidential aide Andrei Belousov and Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev seemed to contradict this.

State-run TASS reported Peskov said reports Rosneft had sent such proposals were untrue.

Peskov said decisions on imposing sanctions were made "in line with the relevant departments, and taken on the level of the government and president."

A different TASS report quoted Belousov as saying, "We are closely studying Rosneft's proposals."

Belousov went on to say, "I would say the radicalism of the proposals for now exceeds the current level of tensions."

The Interfax news agency quoted Ulyukayev as saying the proposals were a "very complex document" and adding, "I don’t think it is grounds for making any decisions."

The "Kommersant" report said "Russian government officials" had provided information about the alleged proposals.

A statement from Rosneft said the company was "deeply shocked" by the "Kommersant" article and might sue the newspaper.

Western governments have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions target key Russian industries and individuals close to Putin, including Rosneft and its head, Igor Sechin, who is a former Kremlin deputy chief of staff.

The sanctions have hurt Rosneft, which has already requested additional funding from the Russian government to make up for losses incurred due to sanctions.

British oil company BP reported on October 28 that its income from its operations with Rosneft dropped from $808 million in the third quarter of 2013 to $110 million in the same period this year.

(Based on reporting by TASS, Interfax, Reuters, and Kommersant)


The White House says it has taken measures to counter suspicious activity detected on its unclassified computer network.

A White House official would not say who might have been responsible for the activity on what was described as an unclassified computer network used by employees of the Executive Office of the President.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the authorities had taken "immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity."

In a report on October 28, the "Washington Post" cited sources as saying hackers believed to be working for the Russian government breached the unclassified computer network in recent weeks.

The White House has declined to comment on the "Washington Post" report.

A U.S. administration official said there were no indications that classified networks had been affected.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa)



Activists are gathering near the former KGB headquarters to honor the memory of thousands of men and women executed by Soviet authorities during Josef Stalin's "Great Terror."

Speakers at the daylong ceremony at the Solovetsky Stone memorial on Moscow's Lubyanka Square read out aloud the names, ages, occupations, and dates of executions of some 30,000 people killed by Soviet authorities in 1937-1938.

Muscovites and others brought flowers, pictures of victims and candles to the site of the "Returning the Names" commemoration, which began at 1000 (local time; 0800 Prague time) and was to end at 1000 (local time; 0800 Prague time).

The annual ceremony is organized by Memorial, Russia's oldest and best-known human rights organization, which is under pressure from the government.

On October 10, Russia's Justice Ministry appealed to the Supreme Court to close Memorial.

Memorial has held the ceremony every year since 2006 at the site near the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, the KGB's main successor.

Ceremonies were also being held in other Russian cities.

(Based on live broadcast by


Pro-Russian separatists reportedly shelled the position of Ukrainian government troops in southeastern Ukraine on October 29, despite an almost two-month-old cease-fire agreement.

Authorities in the port city of Mariupol say military positions located near the village of Talakovka were targeted on October 29 by conventional artillery and Grad rockets that were fired from from the separatist-controlled region of Donetsk.

Casualties were reported among troops.

The cease-fire agreement signed in early September ended most fighting between the two sides -- although battles at the Donetsk airport, in Mariupol, and in villages near the city of Luhansk continue on an almost daily basis.

The UN says more than 3,700 people have been killed in six months of fighting between government forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and UNIAN)


By RFE/RL's Armenian Service

The Grozny Air civil aviation company, based in the Russia's Chechnya region, is pressing ahead with plans to launch regular flights from Yerevan to Crimea, despite protests from Kyiv.

Timur Shimayev, an executive officer for Grozny Air, told RFE/RL on October 29 that the firm's inaugural flight to Crimea is scheduled for November 17.

But Ukraine's Ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Kukhta, told reporters in Yerevan on October 29 that any commercial flights between Yerevan and Crimea must first be approved by Kyiv.

Kukhta's statement came five days after a spokesman for the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, Ruben Grdzelian, said that a Russian regional airline had not been allowed to launch flights between Armenia and Crimea since the Ukrainian penninsula was annexed by Russia in March.

Moscow's annexation of Crimea has been condemned as illegal by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations General Assembly.


12:55 October 29, 2014


The Russian daily "Kommersant" reports that the state-run oil giant Rosneft is calling on President Vladimir Putin to impose new sanctions on the West. The new moves reportedly include limiting cooperation aboard the International Space Station, prohibiting burial of U.S. and EU nuclear waste in Russia, and possible confiscation of property in Russia owned by Western countries or their citizens.

12:41 October 29, 2014


Just a few things I've noticed this morning:

Russian-German Trade Down

German exports to Russia have dropped by more than a quarter, "The Moscow Times" reports. In August, exports from Germany to Russia were 2.3 billion euros, a 26.3 percent decrease from a year ago. Moreover, German exports to Russia fell by 16.6 percent from January-August 2014.

Russian Elite More Cohesive -- For Now

According to a report by Reuters, sanctions have had the "opposite effect to the one intended" among the elite. "Far from dividing those closest to President Vladimir Putin, they have forced the main players in the energy sector to rally behind him. This circle has by necessity become more focused, Western and Russian businessmen, diplomats and politicians said," according to the report.

Sweden Is Warming Up To NATO

Foreign Directors Bail On Russian Firms

Since the start of the year, 14 percent of foreigners serving on the boards of Russian firms have left their posts, "The Moscow Times" reports. "Western sanctions have forced some foreign directors to step down or curb their activities on the boards of publicly traded Russian companies, leaving a critical gap that few domestic candidates are equipped to fill," according to the report.

09:17 October 29, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russia and Ukraine are set to resume talks over a gas dispute on October 29 in Brussels.

The new round of negotiations comes after inconclusive talks October 21, when European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger announced some progress, but said a final deal has yet to be agreed.

Russia cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine in mid-June, citing a $5.3-billion debt.

Oettinger said that, as part of tentative deals, Ukraine planned to purchase some 4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas before the end of this year.

Russia on October 21 said the it would sell gas to Ukraine for $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, much lower than the $485 that Russia's state-controlled Gazprom was demanding just weeks ago.

Moscow said that price would be in force from October 2014 until late March 2015 -- but only if Ukraine pays in advance.

(Based on reporting by AFP and AP)


Ukraine on October 28 condemned as “destructive and provocative” Russia’s support for elections organized by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, while the United States said a vote by separatists in eastern Ukraine would be unlawful.

The November 2 vote was scheduled by rebels in defiance of Ukrainian national elections on October 26, which were won by pro-Western parties.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on October 28 described the vote planned by rebels as "pseudo-elections," saying they "grossly contradict the spirit and letter" of international agreements reached in Minsk in September.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow plans to recognize the elections that are being organized by separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the the vote "will be a clear violation of the commitments made by both Russia and the separatists that it backs in the Minsk agreements."

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and TASS)


Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom, said on October 28 that it has challenged European Union sanctions against the firm in the EU’s Court of Justice.

The sanctions against Gazprom Neft were imposed as part of wider restrictions against Russia over its illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The EU sanctions restrict the ability of Gazprom Neft, Russia's fourth biggest oil producer by output, to raise funds on European markets.

The United States also has imposed sanctions against Gazprom Neft in response to Russia’s role in Ukraine’s crisis.

The West says Moscow is supplying arms and troops to help pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine battle Ukrainian government forces.

Moscow denies that, despite increasing evidence to support the charges.

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

18:54 October 27, 2014


Sam Greene, Director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London and author of "Moscow in Movement: Power & Opposition in Putin’s Russia," has a depressing (and must-read) blog post up about his recent trip to Moscow titled: "Russia's Tomorrow, Today."

It opens like this:

The news and the invitation were waiting for me, both, when I got off the plane from London to Moscow. I saw the invitation first—from a long-time colleague, to attend a workshop on the future of Russian politics later this month at Memorial, the venerable Russian historical society and human rights organization. I saw the news two hours later: 17 days after that workshop, Russia’s High Court will hold a hearing on the government’s demand that Memorial be liquidated.

That is the condition of life in Russia these days: two hours in which an invitation takes on a funerary pallor, 17 days in which the world becomes immeasurably smaller. Rarely has the distance between today and tomorrow been so great and so fraught as it is now.

And it concludes like this:

The tomorrow whose arrival now seems inevitable is one in which the archives of Memorial and the Sakharov Center disappear, to be replaced with a single national history textbook and a single national literature textbook, so that the past may have no bearing on the future. It is one in which policy analysis disappears from the public space, along with honest reporting, so that the present may also have no bearing on the future. Tomorrow, when it arrives, will bring one sole purpose: to preserve and protect the status quo. It is a tomorrow after which there are meant to be, politically speaking, no more tomorrows at all..

What the designers of this new tomorrow may not realize, however, is that, once freed from the paralysis of a pointless today, the despair of disaffection becomes the desperation of dissent. Dissidents, pitted against a regime that can never fall, take risks that are unnecessary in a more fluid system. They speak at all costs to demonstrate that they have no voice, and they go to jail to demonstrate that they are not free. Once today becomes tomorrow, and there are no more tomorrows for which to wait, the imperative of immediate action reemerges. 

Is the Kremlin ready for an opposition that, because everything is already lost, has nothing left to lose?

Read it all here.

And a h/t to Ben Judah for flagging.


15:42 October 27, 2014


The Russian health and consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor has issued a dire warning: SEFIES CAUSE HEAD LICE!

No, really. I'm serious! It is actually on their official website:

"One reason for the spread of lice among teenagers, in the opinion of experts, is because selfie photographs have become more common. In these group photos, lice are transfered due to the touching of heads."

And it is causing a lot of laughs on the Twitter:

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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