Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: The Gangs Of Crimea And Donbas

Gangsters, fascists and separatists: Sergei Aksyonov (first image) and Pavel Gubarev (first from left in front row, second image) with his Russian National Unity comrades.
Gangsters, fascists and separatists: Sergei Aksyonov (first image) and Pavel Gubarev (first from left in front row, second image) with his Russian National Unity comrades.
Russia may be threatening to cut off Ukraine's gas supply. But it is busy exporting other things to Ukraine.

With Crimea about to turn into the most lucrative business opportunity for organized crime groups since the Sochi Olympics, major Russian mafia groups are gearing up to get their cut -- setting the stage for a potential gang war.

And meanwhile, the conflict in Donbas is attracting Russian ultranationalsts, paramilitary groups, and neo-Nazis of various stripes.

In the latest Power Vertical Podcast, we discuss these phenomena and their implications.

Joining me, Brian Whitmore, are co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on post-Soviet organized crime and Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows;" and guest Merhat Sharipzhan, a senior correspondent and analyst for RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.

Power Vertical Podcast -- June 6, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- June 6, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Ukraine,crimea,Russia,Power Vertical podcast,Russian organized crime,Russian nationalists

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: peter from: ottawa
June 07, 2014 13:10
It only means more body bags destined for Russia. Cheers
In Response

by: Bill
June 08, 2014 13:04
Plenty of our favorites have been killed as well.

In Response

by: Bill
June 10, 2014 03:49
Should've read: as plenty of your favorites...
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
June 09, 2014 04:55
To evil craws of failed since 9 Century A.D. evil Varag-Prussak,
It doesn't matter how Ukrainian hope or how you gloat Russak.
Whether you idealist of Free or "palach" like Bill and Eugenio.
Putin - "Russia cannot without Ukraine 300 years kneeling!"
Nations of "Caucasian Cross, or Sword" - for millenniums,
Known history, we need Ukraine be Free, without killing!"

So, crawling propaganda of Varag-Prussak evil Empire,
Are you gloat for Nazi Germany or for Nazi Russia Zar?

by: Larisa from: Kharkov, Ukraine
June 08, 2014 12:27
Our friends-Reconstructionist UPA fought in the East. Possible-help guys. (Translated by Bing)
Glory To Ukraine! To date, five members of our Society are involved in the fighting in the East. At the request of Chief boïvki, etc. Vladimir "songs" need to purchase for the business unit radio, kalìmatori, night vision. All interested please join to raise funds for the acquisition of necessary for the extermination of the enemies of the nation.
Privatbank card 4149 4377 0640 8216 (Lubomir Horbach) glory to Ukraine! Glory to Warriors of the Rivne boïvki "Revenge of Polissya. (Translated by Bing)

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 08, 2014 14:59
One can easily imagine the extent to which the people in Lugansk and Donetsk now hate Ukraine and everything related to this failed state. And against this background it is only obvious that the people of Crimea can only be grateful to Russia and Putin for having saved them from having to "live" in the criminal state of Ukraine that sends military aviation to kill its own citizens.
VIDEO: 'Shelling non-stop, shops closed, no meds': Ukrainians flee as East under Kiev's attack -
In Response

by: sandy Miller from: USA
June 09, 2014 16:29
Eugenio. You're reading too much Putin propaganda. What would you do if a foreign country invaded your country. Lugansk and Donetsk are in the Sovereign country in Ukraine. Russian Ultra-Nationalists, Chechans and other mercenaires and hoodlums have invaded Ukraine and are intimidating and threatening Ukrainian citizens, killing Ukrainian Army. Ukraine did not invade Russia...Russia invaded Ukraine. Even many ethnic russians living in Ukraine who know and understand the truth in Ukraine have gone over to Ukraine's side. You're either a paid Putin propaganda troll or a person filled with Putin's propaganda lies.
In Response

by: Bill
June 10, 2014 03:51
Sandy, it seems like you're the one spouting propaganda. Those opposing the regime that overthrew a democaricaly elected Ukrainian prez include ethnic Ukrainians. Morevoer, most of the fighters in eastern Ukriane appear to be home grown from Ukraine.
In Response

by: Pat
June 10, 2014 12:30
@ Bill below: except their leadership (especially military) Wolves 100

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 08, 2014 15:18
VIDEO: Ukrainian soldier faints upon Poroshenko's arrival for inauguration -

I guess it was just too strong an emotion for the guy to see the messiah who will solve all the problems of Ukraine over the next three months. At any rate, it does look like a good start for the Presidency :-)))
In Response

by: Bill
June 10, 2014 03:56
I saw that pathetic display live on TV when it happened.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 10, 2014 18:58
And those are supposed to be the "elite" troops :-)). I can imagine how those losers who are sent by Poroschenko to the Donbass region are doing: they probably faint even more often - evere time they see Strelok in Slavyansk or Bes in Kramatorsk :-)).

by: Clodfucker from: Not here
June 08, 2014 16:21
Great propaganda! Kiev thugs / gangs are setting up business too!

by: Mamuka
June 08, 2014 22:58
The panelist reinforce a long rumored message: that there is a strong connection between organized crime groups, the security structures, and official Moscow. The inevitable question becomes, after Sochi and Crimea, what will be the next "free enterprise zone" for all of these groups... maybe someplace in northern Kazakhstan?
In Response

by: Bill
June 10, 2014 03:55
Never mind the gangster Kolomoskiy, who is in bed with extreme nationalists. Other such examples as well.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 10, 2014 19:01
Mamuka, dude, I do not know what the "next" "free enterprise zone" will be, but you can be sure that the tide will come all the way to Tbilisi one of those days, and no George W. Obama is gonna help you, just as it was back in August 2008 :-)).
In Response

by: Mamuka
June 11, 2014 00:26
Thank you, Evgeniy, but Georgia is already hosting two such zones in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I think these are working out better for the "vori" than for the locals.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 12, 2014 06:52
Ah, Mamuka, it's such a pity that Mischa did not manage to liberate those territories from the Russian grip - the people living in Abkhazia and Ossetia would be so much happier to live under the hated Georgian rule :-))...
But don't give up: look, if Hillary, for example, become the president of the Beavuses, maybe she will help you, guys, restore your territorial integrity :-))...
Cheers from Vienna!

The Power Vertical Feed

LIVE 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

Semyon Guzman, a prominent Ukrainian psychiatrist, says Vladimir Putin hasn't gone crazy -- he's just evil.

"Many really consider that he suffers from definite psychological illnesses,” Guzman wrote in a September 30 article (a big h/t to thei ndispensable Paul Goble for flagging this).  

"This is only a convenient explanation in the existing situation. Unfortunately, it is not correct.”

Putin's character traits, "ike those of a murderer, thief or other good for nothing, are not psychiatric phenomena but rather objects of the subjects of moral philosophy.” Guzman wrote. He added that Putin was "absolutely responsible" for his actions.

Karen Dawisha, who appeared on the Power Vertical Podcast back in April, dscusses her new book "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia"

From RFE/RL's News Desk:


The head of the European Commission says an EU-Ukraine trade deal can only be changed by Brussels and Kyiv – not Moscow.

Jose Manuel Barroso made the remarks in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin released on October 1.

Ukraine's parliament ratified its agreement with the EU last month. 

However, the implementation of the trade part of the deal has been delayed until January 2016 to appease Russia, which says the pact will hurt its markets.

Moscow has called for more three-way negotiations to amend the deal and threatened to curtail Ukraine's access to Russian markets if Kyiv implements it.

In his letter, Barroso warned Putin not to impose new trade measures, saying it would threaten the agreement with Russia to delay the EU-Ukraine pact.

(With reporting by Reuters)

And for anybody interested, here's the full text of Barroso's letter:

"Mr. President,

Following your letter of 17 September, I would like to welcome the constructive engagement from all sides in the trilateral ministerial meeting on the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area on 12 September.

The conclusions reached at that meeting were endorsed by all participants and set out in a joint ministerial statement.

On the EU side, we have informed our Member States of the outcome of the trilateral process, and we have now obtained their approval for the necessary legislative steps.

I should emphasize that the proposal to delay the provisional application of the DCFTA is linked to continuation of the CIS-FTA preferential regime, as agreed in the joint ministerial statement. In this context, we have strong concerns about the recent adoption of a decree by the Russian government proposing new trade barriers between Russia and Ukraine. We consider that the application of this decree would contravene the agreed joint conclusions and the decision to delay the provisional application of the trade related part of the Association Agreement.

The joint ministerial statement also foresees further consultations on how to address concerns raised by Russia. We are ready to continue engaging on how to tackle the perceived negative impacts to the Russian economy resulting from the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.

I take however this opportunity to underline that the Association Agreement remains a bilateral agreement and that, in line with international law, any adaptations to it can only be made at the request of one of the parties and with the agreement of the other, according to the mechanisms foreseen in the text and the respective internal procedures of the parties.

I wish to recall that the joint conclusions reached at the Ministerial meeting state clearly that all these steps are part and parcel of a comprehensive peace process in Ukraine, respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as its right to decide on its destiny.

Consequently, while all parties should implement the conclusions as laid down in the joint ministerial statement in good faith, the statement does not and cannot limit in any way the sovereign prerogatives of Ukraine.

The European Commission remains fully committed to contribute to a peaceful solution. In this respect we hope that the recent positive steps embodied in the Minsk Protocol of 5 September and the ensuing memorandum from 19 September will be fully implemented, including the monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian state border and its verification by the OSCE, and the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the Ukrainian territory.

We also expect that rapid and decisive progress can be achieved in the trilateral gas talks towards a mutually acceptable interim solution for the upcoming winter period, on the basis of the compromise elements set out by the European Commission. It is key that the resumption of energy deliveries to the citizens of Ukraine is ensured and that the fulfilment of all contractual obligations with customers in the EU is secured.

Yours faithfully,

José Manuel BARROSO"


And just when you though it couldn't get any weirder, Valery Zorkin destroys your illusions.

That's Valery Zorkin, the chairman of Russia's Constitutional Court. Zorkin penned an article last week in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" (that's the official Russian government newspaper, by the way), calling for -- wait for it -- a return to serfdom. A big h/t to Elena Holodny at Business Insider for flagging this.

Here's the money quote:

"Even with all of its shortcomings, serfdom was exactly the main staple holding the inner unity of the nation. It was no accident that the peasants, according to historians, told their former masters after the reforms: 'We were yours, and you — ours.'"

Zorkin also took a shot at Pyotr Stolypin, the 19th century reformist prime minister (and a hero of Vladimir Putin's), and his judicial reforms.

"Stolypin's reform took away communal justice from the peasants in exchange for individual freedom, which almost none of them knew how to live and which was depriving their community guarantees of survival."

I wonder what that portends. Zorking also compared the abolotion of serfdom to the post-Soviet reforms of the 1990s.


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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