Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: The Cultural Cold War

A woman holds up a banner during a demonstration by the gay community during a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam.
A woman holds up a banner during a demonstration by the gay community during a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam.
Vladimir Putin is greeted by boisterous protests over discrimination against gays and lesbians during a recent visit to Europe. Mark Knopfler, founder and frontman of the legendary British band Dire Straits cancels concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the Kremlin's human rights record.

As the one year mark of Putin's third term approaches, the chasm between Russia and the West on basic cultural and humanitarian values is noticeably widening.

In the latest edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discussed this emerging cultural cold war with co-host Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service.

Will this cultural cold war lead to Russia's cultural isolation? And what are the political implications inside Russia?


Power Vertical Podcast: The Cultural Cold War
Power Vertical Podcast: The Cultural Cold Wari
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Listen to or download the podcast above, or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Power Vertical podcast,LGBT rights

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Comment Sorting
by: Ben
April 14, 2013 11:26
The main Russian problem is the ideological extremism and the lack of not only real "middle class" but of moderate liberal views.The fragile balance between extreeme left and right forces allowed the government to continue economic reforms in the interests of big business.Protests will make the authorities as always to lean on the conservative rights that will force the political devision and instability -the opposite result of the humans rights and other Western values support.

by: Russia Speaks from: Russia
April 15, 2013 05:04
It appears that you like to publish those comments which agree with your article, but not when in contrast to your article. I commented several days ago and it just does not appear. Guess your moderators (read censors) eliminated it. Just wondering if, as an American citizen, if my tax dollars are going at all toward your blog and podcast? The comment did not violate your rules, unless you are setting the rules of how behavior is described, meaning, someone must use your very terminology to describe something rather than other descriptive terminology?
In Response

by: Andy
April 15, 2013 08:33
Indeed, your comment was not published because it very clearly violated our guidelines on profanity. It's not "our terminology" but rather common decency that we demand of comments. So do us all a favor and make your points without obscenity.
In Response

by: Victor
April 15, 2013 20:42
Hello Andy and RFE/RL,

As a Ukrainian-born whose native language is Russian, who lived there for almost 20 years before moving to a better place, I ask you not to take seriously comments from individuals expressing their dislikes of civilized world from behind such bold nicknames as "Russia Speaks", because Russia is much more than a few hyper-active Kremlin beneficiaries in the comments section.

I just want to remind you there are many Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, who rarely if ever comment here, but admire this resource, and believe it's of a great value to them and their fellow citizens, so allow me to show my appreciation for your work, and apologize for anti-American, anti-human rights, anti-free press comments that some "Russians" are always eager to make.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 15, 2013 10:43
Hey, Russia Speaks, you must be new here. Look, this is a web-site dedicated to spreading cheap US propaganda primarily aimed at distracting readers' attention from real issues that matter by focusing their "coverage" on some ... that no one really cares about, such as the fate of belugas in the Black Sea or the upcoming Eurovision contest.
There were some people (Jack and myself primarily) who tried to contribute to somehow remind people about this specificity of their "coverage", after which the RFE/RL decided to restrict the "comments" section to a minimum (it happened about a month ago or so). Since then they censor A LOT MORE than they did before.
If you are a US citizen and a tax-payer, then - obviously - your money is being wasted whatever on you take: carrying out the wars lost by the US in advance (Iraq, Afghanistan, maybe Korea soon) or on such web-sites.
Cheers from Vienna!
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
April 16, 2013 00:26
Hey, Eugenio, you must be (spiritually) new here. This is a site that has a certain viewpoint, like pretty much any other site, and it defends it; but it has never really left comments aside for any reason other than obsenity -- your comments, when you refrain from obscenity, are always published, aren't they?

You like to attack anything this site says, and it's usually unimportant to you whether or not the discussion is justified or not. It's not that you like to "contribute", it's that you like to "attack". You are usually silent on topics on which you cannot disagree with the site, and quite vocal on those on which you can. That is usually quite clear evidence of bias.

If you're a citizen of Vienna, remember what the last famous guy who came from that place did to the world, including Russia.

Cheers from the Netherlands!
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
April 16, 2013 07:45
RFE does it, but mostly it is done by Eugenio and Jack types
That bushing all, but not Russia, whether it's right or wrong.
If USA paid RFE support USA actions more than criticize,
It allows anyone post critics, even as spiteful as yours,
Even threaten and intimidate victims of genocides.

(Or me and my mother, you setup be killed.)
Asehpe is right, but Is Eugenio from Vienna?
His style act from behind and slashing veins
Or spoiling air is like old Austrian Empire bill,
But relentless like a genocidal Russia's gain.

"Culture" as perversion - versus despotize?
That is really something also, on both sides.
Since 1947 offer to USA and Brits plagiarize,
By Russia, coincide by a strange "Cold War".
Both plagio-spies warred against the blessed.

In the "process" millions of talents and brains
Were moved by Russia to US, not only Jews,
Not only Hungarians - for both Tyrants gains.
Both monopolizing stolen ideas, more for US,
Both aggress, more Russia - breed our lands.

Edgar Hoover's perverted style, as Visantine,
Organized mostly statutory rape youth slaves,
To add 20% of Americans - English speaking,
Less paid. The rest of America - spies-scared.
Russians loved it and used it to, spies-scaring.

Both Superpowers avoid important issues too
And using perverts-despots - show "kaka do",
As raped by West and Russia's agencies kids,
Used as human bombs, or snitches-Quislings,
Or just cheaper labor. Both cover dirty deeds.

Still, Eugenio and the Russia, matter at hand:
- Leave homes in desecrated by Russia land!

by: Russia Speaks from: Russia
April 15, 2013 16:32
OK, let me try to make this as inoffensive as possible, so as to not upset your sensitivities. In spite of the foolish direction that the US is now taking under Obama, it never ceases to amaze me that as the US economy is dismantled and destroyed and the Constitution shredded that the big issue that you, and by extension the government's outreach programs decide to judge other countries by are homosexuals and sex changed folks right to partake in the thousands of years old tradition of marriage. No, a civil union is not enough, gotta profane the very meaning of marriage instead. Then you have the gall to judge others as "civilized" or not based upon their acceptance or not of this outrage. I do find it extremely cowardly of you to not go after the very Muslim countryies in which two of my sons have spent a total of 5 years fighting in. As I mentioned, you are a coward and know that you would most likely be beheaded there for criticizing them about homosexuals or the way they treat women.
Russia has plenty of warts and plenty of problems, but as a Christian who was born in a once Christian nation, I won't criticize them for not being so accepting of Homosexuality and also their church holding traditional views concerning women.
OK, now I've reviewed this very carefully to make sure that it doesn't contain any profanity, but neither did my last letter.
I do refuse to partake in your way of changing the language to advance the cause.
In Response

by: Victor
April 15, 2013 23:55
Russia Speaks wrote:
" the [U.S.] government's outreach programs decide to judge other countries by are homosexuals and sex changed folks right to partake in the thousands of years old tradition of marriage"

Are you ready to provide at least a single source that would support your claim? When and how exactly did the U.S. government outreach program judge other countries based on their approval of same sex marriage? I beg your pardon but there is a big difference between judging homophobic regimes for denial of basic human rights to their LGBT communities (also to everyone else by the way), and judging the regimes of actually approving same sex marriage. As a matter of fact, same sex marriage is not legally recognized in the United States on the federal level, and only 9 states allow it. I guess you might want to research a little more on the topic before making statements of this magnitude.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
April 16, 2013 00:37
OK, let me be equally non-offensive. It never ceases to amaze me that a human rights question is belittled just because there are others, even more important, questions. Maybe hunger in Africa is a much more important problem in human terms than the current situation of the American economy. Maybe global warming is. I don't know. But there is no reason to downplay people who select a topic because they find it interesting just because you think there are more important topics. People talk about what they want to talk about. This is a web site mostly concerned with Eastern Europe and Russia. They talk about Eastern European and Russian topics here. Maybe there are more important regions of the world to talk about -- China jumps to mind --, but that is not the topic here. If you don't like that, please go elsewhere.

"What is more important" is such a poor argument... Maybe it would be better if you were doing something else with your time rather than writing a comment here. Yet you did write a comment, in fact twice; as if you didn't have anything else to do. I'm not questioning your choice; obviously, I am here also writing a comment, so I think it's worthwhile. But I AM questioning your cheap belittling of other's interests just because you'd rather concentrate on "more important" topics.

Now, you do the same thing again when you claim that rather than protesting against the maltreatment of gays in Russia and Eastern Europe, the site should be concerned with human right violations in the Muslim world. Sure -- what the Saudi Arabs do to women is much worse, and much more despicable. But again -- if people here prefer to talk about one topic - Russia - rather than another - Saudi Arabia -, well, it's their choice, isn't it?

Again: this site is mostly concerned with Russia and Eastern Europe. You do live in this world, right? You do realize that there is such a thing as "specialization", and that people, websites, journals, books, etc. CHOOSE a topic they find INTERSTING, not because they think it's the most important.

If everybody only talked about "The Most Important Topic" and nothing else, discussions would always be about the same thing, and conversations would end up being quite dull and repetitive, don't you think?

If they call the Russians "uncivilized" because of the way they treat the gays, that is their opinion. In what way does that affect your sons who fought 5 years in Muslim countries? If I talk about human right violations in my country (Brazil) during the Paraguyan war in the 19th century, am I also "offending" your boys who fought for 5 years in the Muslim world?

Calm down. Breathe a few times.

And then go contribute to the discussions that YOU find important, go speak your mind about the issues that YOU find important, and please let those who care about Russia and possible human rights violations in Russia in peace. We're not claiming to be "more important" than YOUR issues. We're just interested in something other than what you're interested in.

Go in peace, and may you find happiness.
In Response

by: Victor
April 16, 2013 00:48
Russia Speaks wrote:
" No, a civil union is not enough, gotta profane the very meaning of marriage instead."

LGBTs in Russia endure violence and discrimination on a regular basis coming not only from ordinary folk but from politicians, law "enforcement". religious leaders, and mainstream media alike. When you walk down the street as part of a peaceful rally in hopes to cease this ignorance, and all you get is a punch or two in the face from hateful bystanders, then police detention as a follow up without any legal protection, you just know that a long developmental process needs to take place in the country before even the discussion of same sex civil unions would be able to take place there, let alone acceptance of such unions. I'm yet to see a single case of a persecution in Russia, of those responsible for hateful crimes against aforementioned minorities.
In Response

by: Victor
April 16, 2013 01:08
Russia Speaks wrote:
"I do find it extremely cowardly of you to not go after the very Muslim countryies in which two of my sons have spent a total of 5 years fighting in. As I mentioned, you are a coward and know that you would most likely be beheaded there for criticizing them about homosexuals or the way they treat women."

The U.S. always stand against human rights violations regardless of where the violations take place. Ambassador Susan Rice regularly makes statements at the U.N. regarding this matter. Annual reports are made available by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. You can look up a country of interest with human rights violations at this location:
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
April 17, 2013 11:19
In another article, with Putin and Merkel - a joker.
Putin standing face to face with an undressed female.
How close would she come if bodyguards of both leaders
And police wouldn't be part of a setup? Even she fooled males,
Hiding back with "Idi na ... Putin", they knew their job riddle.

Their brass foreheads should think that she was a threat,
Maybe machineguns in her boobs, or a big "fauspatron",
In other arsenals of her beauty - they should of guess.
German cops did kill at the Berlin wall for much less.
Such immoral show contrast shine modern thrones:

They might dress as democracy, but in USSR times
They had whole armies of comrades-comfort-dames
To please important fioreigners - even homosexuals.
Why not unleash few of them, as west-like lesbians?

by: Ben
April 16, 2013 18:55
The post`s content is not interesting as usual and I watch the fierce fights of Russian patriotisms as they say : the revolt senseless and merciless.That`s the problem.

by: Da Russophile from: Mordor
April 17, 2013 02:12
"Will this cultural cold war lead to Russia's cultural isolation? And what are the political implications inside Russia?"

No, it will not, because outside Western Europe and the blue American states, the entire world shares Russia's position on LGBT matters.
In Response

by: Victor
April 17, 2013 20:53
Da Russophile wrote:
"No, it will not, because outside Western Europe and the blue American states, the entire world shares Russia's position on LGBT matters."

In reality, Russia has been long culturally isolated (still is).

No, none of the states that are part of the U.S. shares Russia's position on LGBT matters, nice try however.

Developed nations (which guarantee protection of human rights) are not constrained by just the U.S. and Western Europe. Human development index can be looked up in Google, to see that countries with the highest values occupy at least one quarter of the world. Besides, even if only one country were to treat LGBT community with respect, that wouldn't have made its attitude towards them wrong in any way.

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

17:49 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

One police officer was wounded.

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

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

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

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

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014


17:26 October 24, 2014


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


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

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

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


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

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

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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