Friday, November 28, 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
|| 0:00:00

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

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

15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or