Sunday, October 26, 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

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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

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