Friday, October 24, 2014

The Power Vertical

Russia's 'Revolutionary' Situation

Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks during an anti-government protest in Moscow on June 12, 2012.
Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov speaks during an anti-government protest in Moscow on June 12, 2012.
We can now add Olga Kryshtanovskaya to the list of leading experts who are convinced that Russia is headed toward a very serious and potentially destabilizing crisis.
One of Russia's most renowned sociologists, Kryshtanovskaya has spent the past two decades studying the country's elite -- and the signs now, she says, are deeply troubling.
"In my view, the country is in a revolutionary situation. Dangerous processes are accelerating that could lead to a destabilizing situation," Kryshtanovskaya said in an interview this week on Dozhd TV.


Kryshtanovskaya recently left her position at the Russian Academy of Sciences Center for Elite Studies and suspended her membership in the ruling United Russia party to, as she put it, "study the revolution" and "if possible to help stop the worst-case scenario from developing."
In her Dozhd TV interview, conducted on the eve of the June 12 protests as opposition leaders apartments were being searched,  Kryshtanovskaya said the elite is dangerously split between factions vying for power -- neither of which is content with the current situation.
"This is a dangerous process that began during the Medvedev thaw," she said.
Those who wanted the "Medvedev thaw" to continue, she said, are unhappy with Putin's return to power. But the victors in that Kremlin power struggle are also dissatisfied with Medvedev's legacy and the tremors that swept through Russia's ruling class during his presidency.

For example, Kryshtanovskaya says that when Putin turned the Kremlin over to Medvedev in 2008, 45 percent of Russia's senior officials were security service veterans. Medvedev cut that figure in half:
Putin was very careful. He didn't want there to be a large number of dissatisfied people in the elite. He was careful about who was dismissed and who didn't get what they wanted. Medvedev may have the reputation of being softer and more liberal but from the perspective of the elite he was more strict and many more people had the ground fall out from under their feet. They are not satisfied. The number of dissatisfied people in the elite sometimes reaches critical mass.
Kryshtanovskaya also sees the fledgling opposition as a source of instability. Some in the movement, she says, are sincerely trying to improve the situation. But some are also seeking to use the current discontent to destabilize the country and seize power.
"It is important to understand who the leaders are. Some are above ground and some are underground. The ones underground are the most dangerous," she said.
Kryshtanovskaya's bleak assessment came on the heels of a report by the highly respected Center for Strategic Research that warned Russia could descend into violence and chaos if the authorities continued to crack down on opposition protesters or if the economy slides. (You can read the report in Russian here and read my blog post on it here.)

Writing on his blog "In Moscow's Shadows," New York University's Mark Galeotti compared the study to the 1983 Novosibirsk Report, which warned of fundamental weaknesses in the Soviet economy and became one of the foundations for Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika program.

What Kryshtanovskaya's dire warnings and the Center for Strategic Research report have in common -- other than their conclusions -- is that both assessments come from inside the system. Kryshtanovskaya has always been close to the elite and joined United Russia in 2009. And the Center for Strategic Research report was commissioned by former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's newly formed Committee of Civic Initiatives.
When the insiders are nervous, and they clearly are, it is time to pay attention. It looks like Russia could be in for a very hot summer.
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Russian opposition,Russian elite,Olga Kryshtanovskaya

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ben
June 12, 2012 22:18
King Lir`s fate or "khotel kak luchshe..."

by: Judah Disraeli from: Across River Sambatyon
June 12, 2012 22:55
Based on Kryshtanovskaya's alarmist sociological conclusions, unlike his 1st term as president, Putin will not blow-up Russia during this term to justify a further loss of liberty. Instead, he will publish alarmist reports that say that someone will blow up Russia unless we give more power to the security apparatus of the state.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 13, 2012 07:07
Most probably, this third presidency term will be marked by the collapse of the European and (possibly) global financial system - provoked by the Greek exit from the Euro-zone and Greece's default on its sovereign debt. So, the "intellectual" games of Kryshtanovskaya and the cheap propaganda by the RFE/RL will be forgotten very soon, giving way to concerns over how to limit the damage caused by the implosion of the European (and global) capitalism on the Russian economy.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
June 13, 2012 14:33
Russia is totally reliant on the EU buying its oil and gas. If western capitalism implodes, then Russia will implode along with it and to a far greater degree. BTW Eugenio, you live in an EU member state, seems odd that you would consistently gloat about the continuing troubles they are having when you stand to suffer severely from them.
In Response

by: Alex from: Baltimore, MD
June 13, 2012 15:51
Longtime readers of this blog will recognize Eugenio from Vienna as a persistent pro-Putin troll whose commentary consists solely of anti-American and anti-RFE/RL insults. He is either paid by the Russians to spread his odious views on this site or he is a clinical idiot incapable of understanding the true nature of Putin's regime and the threat it poses to Russia and its unfortunate neighbors. I suggest that regular readers of this blog - which I think is one of the best Russia-watcher sites online today - ignore this guy.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 13, 2012 16:06
Hey, Andrew from Auckland, welcome back! I even thought that your long absence from this forum was conditioned by the fact that you were giving a helping hand to "unarmed civilians" in Syria, but it looks like you are more reasonable (than some of your comments might suggest you are) and prefer to stay away from Damascus :-))).
I would also like to underline that you are in a pretty good shape today: your comment on Russia (for a change) makes a lot of sense. The only two corrections that I would make are the following: substitue the word "totally" in the first line through "to a significant extent" and take the words "to a far greater degree" out of the second line compeletely - and I will 100 % agree with your statement.
And the very fact that PUTIN has done a lot (even if a lot more needs to be done) in the last 12 years in order to diversify the Russian economy and make it more independent from the European market absolutely speaks in his favour (and constitutes the major reason why such cheap propaganda web-sites as this one are so hostile towards him).
And as long as you are making a point about how my own situation will be affected by the implosion of global capitalism, I can assure you that I have taken the measures I could (i.e. changing the little money that I have from Euros into Swiss francs - the effectiveness of which can of course be questioned, but - let's admit - you have to at least try to do something when a tsunamy is heading your way).
And as far as "gloating" is concerned: you know, Andrew, if you read Lenin, you would have known that sharp and rapid deteriorations of the economic situation of the vast majority of the population (like the one we are witnessing in such NATO/EU member states as Greece or Spain today) constitutes one of the three essential elements of a revolutionary situation. Thus, the coming revolution will give those who today can only gloat on internet fora an occasion to personally take part in a radical societal change.
Greetings from Vienna, Andrew, and we'll see each other on the barricades :-))!

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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)







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