Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: The Left's Autumn Of Opportunity

Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks at an antigovernment protest in Moscow on June 12.
Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks at an antigovernment protest in Moscow on June 12.
A new season of protests kicks off on September 15 with mass rallies planned for Moscow and other cities.

But in addition to the opposition's longstanding demands for early elections and a more competitive and pluralistic political system, a new element will be added to the protest mix in what promises to be a very hot autumn -- social issues.

In the coming months, the Russian authorities are due to implement a series of reforms of the country's creaking social welfare infrastructure, including its pension and health-care system. Utilities prices are expected to rise.

Additionally, Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization earlier this summer has sparked increasing anxiety among labor unions and rank-and-file workers.

The prevailing protest mood and the addition of social issues to the equation appears to present an opportunity for Russia's left wing political forces -- if they can seize it.

In this week's edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discuss the state of the Russian left with my regular co-host Kirill Kobrin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian Service.


Power Vertical Podcast - 14 September, 2012
Power Vertical Podcast - 14 September, 2012i
|| 0:00:00

Listen to or download the podcast above, or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.

Tags: Russian opposition,Power Vertical podcast,Russian left,Sergei Udaltsov

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mark from: Victoria
September 17, 2012 00:09
That's a pretty good shot of Udaltsov; he still looks fairly energized and engaged. He began to look a little drawn later, when he was still bizarrely talking up there while nobody remained except the cleaners sweeping the area. Eventually the police took pity on him and arrested him, which was of course what he wanted all along, even if it did cost him a solo monologue that blew anything ever seen on Saturday Night Live into the weeds.

Then again, talking to himself probably is not a new experience for Udaltsov. I sincerely hope the liberals have something better than this to nurture Russia's "gathering political storm".
In Response

by: Sergio Meira from: The Netherlands
September 18, 2012 21:49
I also don't think that Udaltsov et alii have any hope of actually starting a national dialogue in Russia. And that is a pity. If there is a country in the world that surely needs an honest look at its past and present, it's Russia.

But indeed -- Udaltsov is not going to get this to happen (and I'm not even sure he wants it).

But it seems to me that you feel happy about that -- as if you thought Udaltsov's failure to become meaningful is good, rather than bad, for Russia. Do you think so? If so, why? Do you think the path Russia is currently following is OK?
In Response

by: Mark from: Victoria
September 19, 2012 19:24
By "an honest look at its past and present", you seem to be suggesting "a look at its past and present which will result in Russian conclusions which reflect the current western narrative", which would be that Yeltsin was the last hope for reform, the last chance for Russia to pull out of its power dive, which it has resumed under Putin. And we are in agreement that that is not going to happen. I also agree its unlikely Udaltsov wants that - he is much closer to Pussy Riot than to Prokhorov; an anarchist with anarchistic views as well as an intolerant nationalist. Although Navalny is neither, I suspect he and Udaltsov would agree Russia should stop subsidizing the Caucasus, and cut them loose. Whereupon they would become the next Syria in terms of outside-inspired revolution and riot.

Udaltsov's failure to become meaningful is pathos only for him. Whether or not it is good for Russia is moot, as Udaltsov broadcasting Udaltsov's current message - civil disobedience will gain you what you want, somehow, magically, if only you refuse to obey - would not resonate in any modern society.

Yes, I do think the path Russia is currently following is OK. It's not perfect, of course, and there are many areas which could use improvement, but on the whole the nation has recovered very well from nearly sliding off the edge under Yeltsin The Great Reformer. The western press loves to sneer that all Putin has done is restore momentum to the economy, and that he would never have achieved even that without high oil prices. Be that as it may, Europe currently finds itself in a desperate situation in which every pressing social concern has been subordinated to the economy, and if massive reserves of oil were discovered in any of those countries they would weep with happiness, rather than gasp that oil is a curse that only fools rely on to grow their economies, and please take it away. As well, Russian industry is a great deal more diversified than western news lets on.

If you have time, here's a link to a panel conference held at Columbia University recently, featuring Stephen Cohen. If you are not familiar with Stephen Cohen (and pardon me if you are), he is of Lithuanian descent and has been the Professor of Russian Studies at New York University since 1998.

This is a fairly long clip, more than an hour, but if you have the time to watch it, it is extremely enlightening. You will see two diametrically opposed views between Stephen Cohen and Sasha Gesin, writer and columnist for Novaya Gazeta. The latter holds that Novaya Gazeta is "the most important newspaper in Russia" although it has a circulation of only about 130,000 copies, because it espouses liberal views and as far as Mr. Gesin is concerned, these are the only views that matter. He likewise is of the opinion that the views of foreigners are of paramount importance to Russians, that they are "the heart of the Russian soul", which is about as misinformed a worldview as it is possible to have although it largely reflects what the western media likes to hear.

Professor Cohen's portion of the discussion consists of the - in his view - deplorable state of western journalism on the subject of Russia. He blames the Clinton administration, which aired the view (of Yeltsin), this is the guy who represents the direction we want Russia to go.

by: Ben
September 17, 2012 16:28
Russia is leaning left as always as the anti-West force and culture.
Democratic opposition hides it`s pro-capitalist views as the unpopular.The main oligarch Chodorcovsky sympathizes the Lefts!
RFE with it`s Aspen`s Marxist roots do the same.But Russian leftism has the distinct Stalinist extreme right features.Future tears of the repentance?

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."

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