Friday, October 24, 2014

The Power Vertical

The End Of The Consensual Hallucination

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
A lot of things that people say never happened before suddenly seem to be happening.

When news agencies incorrectly reported -- based on a forged government press release -- that President Vladimir Putin had sacked his longtime ally, Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin, last week some analysts called the incident unprecedented.

"Nothing like this has ever happened before," Alexander Rahr of the German Council of Foreign Relations, a biographer of Putin, told Reuters.

Actually, it did.

Back in February, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich appeared to announce his resignation on Twitter. He later announced on Facebook that he hadn't resigned, that his account had been hacked, and the tweet in question was a fake.

But Dvorkovich is pretty peripheral to Putin's inner circle while Yakunin is a bona fide member of his Politburo.

Nevertheless, if last week's firing wasn't exactly unprecedented, it was at least highly unusual. And so, too, was another firing that actually happened.

According to most accounts, Putin really didn't want to remove Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister in November despite the procurement scandals engulfing him. But he appeared to have been pressured into doing so by a cabal of aides including Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, and Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov.

It "may have been the first instance of Putin giving in to pressure and doing something he didn't want to do," political analyst Vladimir Pribylovsky wrote recently. 

Yakunin's fake firing and Serdyukov's real one each illustrate that despite his bluster, Putin has actually become an increasingly weak leader who can no longer control his courtiers. On last week's "Power Vertical" podcast, co-host Mark Galeotti of New York University likened the phenomenon to that of a collective mirage being lifted. 

"In politics, everything is about a consensual hallucination. Everything is about people agreeing with each other about what really matters. People agreeing with each other about who is powerful," said Galeotti, who authors the blog "In Moscow's Shadows."  

"Putin for a long time was the beneficiary of this," Galeotti added. "He had this astonishingly effective image as the ruthless, mechanical, totally well informed chekist in the Kremlin. People on the whole didn't want to go up against him."

Nobody is going up against him yet. Not directly anyway.

But he couldn't prevent what was a clear attack -- even if it is still unclear from whom -- against Yakunin, one of his closest allies. And he couldn't resist the Ivanov-Rogozin-Chemezov conspiracy to get Serdyukov fired.

Putin is also known to disdain the elite airing its dirty laundry in public, and during his first stint in the Kremlin the mudslinging was kept to a minimum.

Now it is commonplace.

Remember those videos attacking Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that appeared on the YouTube account of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin? 

It was once unthinkable for members of Putin's inner circle to openly vie to be his successor. Now it is conventional wisdom that the president's own chief of staff is angling for that designation.

All the open infighting, brazen shenanigans, and naked ambition suggest not only that the chimera of Putin's omnipotence is fading. It also suggests that Putin is no longer able to perform his key role as the ultimate trusted arbiter of disputes among the elite's various clans -- the role that has long made him Russia's indispensable man. 

Nobody is quite saying "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" quite yet.

But the consensual hallucination in the Kremlin is indeed fading.

And we still don't know what reality -- or the next hallucination -- will look like.

-- Brian Whitmore
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 24, 2013 18:27
Reading this cheap propaganda article one comes to the following conclusion: there are honest people among US citizens, such as Edward Snowden, and then there are other ones, such as the author of the article :-)).
In Response

by: zviad from: Tennessee, USA
June 29, 2013 21:26
Putin is weakening and people within his clan are fighting with each other for power and money. Putin's corrupt regime will inevitably fail. The only question is how soon. It looks like the regime's collapse is a matter of 3-6 more years.
In Response

by: Alex from: Baltimore, MD
July 01, 2013 16:01
It's actually pretty funny that one of the best online blogs on Russia today consistently gets the most stupid, offensive, and pro-Putinist comments - comments, by the way, that consistently fail to present any actual counter-arguments to the points made in the blog (and that don't follow the rules of good English grammar either).

In a way, it's a compliment to the Power Vertical that it has a such a "loyal" audience of pro-Putin trolls like "Eugenio" and "Jack," wherever and whatever they may be.

If this blog wasn't good, it would not attract the attacks of these awful people, whose energies would be much better spent learning English and getting therapy for their sick and dysfunctional anti-Americanism. Brian, you rock.

by: Jack from: US
June 24, 2013 18:31
is it the height of what RFERL can do - post digitally distorted pics of Putin in the hope of vilifying him in the eyes of a crowd of 3 readers who still visit RFERL web site?
Let us give RFERL advice - go to Youtube, where you can find not just digitally "remastered" pictures of evil Putin, but the whole "remastered" videos of him. That would make your day
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 24, 2013 21:03
:-))) Good point on the "3 readers who still visit RFERL web site" :-)). Are those three readers (a) you, (b) me and (c) Konstantin from LA :_))?? Because it looks like Camel Anatürk stopped coming here :-))).

by: Alik from: Lithuania
June 24, 2013 19:50
For sure this is the real image of Putin, the KGB officer and admirer of Dzerzhinski and nostalgic about the USSR. Making his small Gulag in the meantime.

by: Mamuka
June 24, 2013 19:51
Jack and Zheniya, calm down. This article is describing a normal process that actually shows a degree of "maturing" in the Russian political process. Namely, political elites realizing that the current regime will not last forever and beginning to jockey for power. Actually I think it is a positive sign.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 25, 2013 17:25
Aha, Mamuka, this "regime" is crubling in front of our eyes and will collapse - right after the "end game" for Bashar al-Assad has come and right after Edward Snowden will be handed over to the US "to face the music". Ah, I'm sorry I forgot: right after Mischa Saakaschwili will have been reelected as the President of Georgia :-)).

by: Ben
June 24, 2013 20:17
Putin`s confrontation with the West means as always in Russian politics the strengthening of the "military industrial complex" and the army who are strongly dissatisfied with Serdyukov and his politics.
He is the victim of this politics.The provocations mentioned are I think, the actions of the confrontation supporters.

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
June 24, 2013 20:49
Flattering picture of VVP and I’m sure that it will strike fear into any boyars harboring disloyal sentiments.

Not sure that I agree that Serdyukov’s removal ought to be interpreted as a sign of Putin’s growing weakness among the elite. Putin tried to protect him as long as possible, but the stench of high-level corruption was growing too close to the Kremlin. There was grumbling in the ranks. If Putin is as weak as you suggest, why hasn’t a criminal case been opened against the former Defense Minister?

And I also question the validity of Mr. Galeotti’s assertion that “In politics, everything is about a consensual hallucination.” Perhaps, but there’s still something to be said for envelopes stuffed with cash, nice dachas, new cars, or conversely, the knock on the door at night, a tax inspection and the steel-toed boot. I suspect that VVP still has an impressive arsenal to ensure compliance among the faithful.

by: American Troll
June 24, 2013 23:18
Wrong. We know perfectly well what the next hallucination will look like:

It will look like mobs of Slav-supremacists that Putin, gutless little clown that he is, can't treat the same way that he treats irrelevant urban liberals that no Russian has ever heard of. Those well-intended nonentities can be beaten and jailed without fear of consequences. These folks, not so much.

Problem is, it won't be a hallucination. And when they finish cleansing their sacred motherland of gastarbeters, gays, NGOs, and other alien elements but still have surplus rage to spare, then they'll turn on Tatars, Chuvashes, Tuvans, and anyone else insufficiently Slavic or Orthodox.

But hey... they wrote some awesome poetry.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
June 25, 2013 04:07
Eugenio and RFE, after having my mother murdered,
Have a free ride of plain propaganda of expanding Russia.
He and Jack must think I am also dead, or silenced for good.
Well, I still comment on RFE, when the world sunk in "laga".
Sure, comparing to Russia's race wars, it's just an "intriga",
Who gets who, as Russia breeds occupants in our lands.

Similar "intriga" happen in USA, but it rather would exit
Occupied countries - while Russia try hold them back,
Manipulating insurgency - to prevent revival, to a bit
Of Russian "barabans" - waiting to invade left racks
Of nations they sabotage - from Afghanistan to CIS.

Recently Putin and Russia rudely denied Georgians
Return of their lands and houses that Russians grab
And repopulate, using "hallucination" of "Abkhazians"
And "Osetin" children of rape by Russia's army mob,
Accompanied by "Anychars" of invaders, like Adygas
And pushing fences into Georgia, as bestial macaques.

by: Boris from: London
June 26, 2013 06:53
I've come to the conclusion, that because of inconsistent US foreign policy Tyranny in the face of Putin and Russian empire in general can not be defeated. Republicans wound the bear badly, then come incompetent democrats and give them an empire back.
Unfortunately, two terms of republicans aren't enough to completely destroy the empire for good. Three is needed, which happens once, or twice a century. Last time it happened, Reagan and Bush, dramatic mistake has been made, to leave the bear badly wounded but alive. World has yet to see the outcome of this unfortunate mistake.

In Response

by: Jack from: US
June 26, 2013 12:17
One must agree, US was excessively victorious lately, especially under Republican administration (although as everyone knows it is the same ruling mafia - democrats or republicans). Let's see what do American people remember about Bush era: 1. Attack on 9/11 when Sunni Muslims from Saudi Arabia and Egypt (all - "strategic allies" of US government) killed 3,000 Americans in World Trade Center; 2. Shuttle Columbia disaster, 3. Katrina disaster, 4. Housing bubble and worst economic slump since Great Depression; 5. Disastrous aggression and war in Iraq which Bush started under fabricated pretext and shamefully lost; 6. Disastrous war in Afghanistan against friends and allies of US government - Taliban and Pakistan.. Close to 12,000 American soldiers have been killed by US government and its Sunni allies, and many more were mutilated, paralyzed for life... hmm indeed, US has been badly wounded but it is still alive and even instigated yet another war, this time in Syria.
In Response

by: Boris from: London
June 26, 2013 20:35
Jack, eugenio and other KGB boys at work here))
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
June 27, 2013 10:08
Boris and Jack, you using dogmas of "Cold War",
Through bent lens of Russian imperial expansion.
Putin is not Tyranny in itself, brainwashed by hors,
A relatively small group of conspirators of Russian,
Prussian and Levite extraction since 1949 and1954,
Most instigated by those, freed from Nazi occupation.

However, the envious and evil instigators - kill our people
Of non-Russian extraction - breed in our homes and land,
Since 1954-56, combining anti-Stalin and anti-CIS riddles
Not only created generation (Putin and Medvedev meant),
But increased again to 2/3 non-Russian hate momentums
Among Russians - as Russians had during pogrom's ages.

As for Reagan, Bush, other USA leaders it is all same -US
Never knew where it came from, who it was, where to go,
Manipulated by empires in the past, lately like a horse ass,
Lured by imperial resurrection - which influence is growing.
From USA media and press, Cohen, Litvak and Shvarzkov,
Russ and partners - Austria, Germs and Brits push to bogs
USA resources to spread like Napoleon into Russia's snow.

Neither USA defeated Russia, just prevented CIS genocide,
Nor tried to conquer Asia - just set of Russian provocations,
Using mindless USA power, nor intended or could follow up
With your interpretation: "Russia or USA conquer the World".
By the way, it's Russian game, USA and Georgia could wipe
Russia since 20-th - let it die from hunger and Nazi weapons.

As for Democrats, they becoming dangerous, like the proxies
Of imperial resurrect - Russian, Austrian-German and British
Forging "Bagdad Halifat" of all Moslem world, another empire,
Help squash Caucasian and Human Civilizations, in between,
From South-East Europe and Caucasus through Middle East.

It is why all this happens to Syria, Caucasus, Balkans, Asia...
Jack, are you accounting in "Cold War" style, who kicked who?

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
June 28, 2013 09:26
Girls from Pussy Riot are torturing in prison
bandits are going to sentence of Khodorkovsky to life imprisonment
abkhaz criminals with permission of Putin brings arabs terrorists from Syria to Abkhazia and settles them in Georgian houses
but Mr. Whitmore tells us about the adventures of a group of criminals who have stolen millions and now they have fun because they drunk more than usual.

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



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."

11:01 October 23, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Top managers at a Moscow airport have resigned and four more airport workers have been detained over a plane crash that killed the chief executive of French oil giant Total.

Christophe de Margerie and three French crew members died when a corporate jet collided with a snow-removal machine at Vnukovo Airport late on October 20.

The Investigative Committee said on October 23 that prosecutors had detained an air-traffic controller intern, her supervisor, the head of air-traffic controllers, and the chief of runway cleaning.

Meanwhile, the airport announced the resigntion of its director-general, Andrei Dyakov, and his deputy, Sergei Solntsev.

And a Moscow court ordered that the snowplough driver remain in custody until December 21.

The driver says that he has lost his bearings before the collision.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and TASS)

And these items from Reuters:


By Denis Pinchuk

MOSCOW, Oct 23 (Reuters) - A Russian court decided on Thursday to postpone to next week a hearing on a move to wrest control of an oil company from oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a case that has deepened investors' fears the Kremlin wants to reclaim prized assets.

Russian prosecutors filed the suit last month to regain state ownership of Bashneft, saying there had been alleged violations in the privatisation and subsequent sale of the oil producer to Russian oil-to-telecoms conglomerate Sistema in 2009.

On Thursday, the judge at the Moscow Arbitration Court ruled in favour of the prosecutors who had requested more time to prepare their case and said the next hearing would take place on Oct. 30.

Sistema's shares, which lost 70 percent after it reached a peak this year in July, traded down nearly 5 percent in early trading in Moscow. Bashneft's shares were down 1.3 percent on the day.

In September, a Moscow court ordered the seizure of Sistema's majority stake in Bashneft a day after a judge refused to release Yevtushenkov, who is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition.

The case centres on the privatisation of oil production and refining assets in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan in the Ural mountains in the early 2000s and Bashneft's subsequent sale to Sistema.

The Russian investigators say the privatisation and the sale was illegal.

Sistema, which directly owns almost 72 percent of Bashneft's voting rights and has a stake of 86.7 percent, including 12.6 percent which it owns through its subsidiary Sistema-Invest, has denied the allegations.

Yevtushenkov is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

Some analysts have said that state-controlled Rosneft , Russia's biggest oil producer run by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, was interested in buying Bashneft.

The company, Russia's sixth largest crude oil producer, extracted more than 16 million tonnes (320,000 barrels per day) of crude oil last year, increasing output by more than 4 percent - the best results among domestic majors after launching production at new deposits in the Arctic.

Its oil refining capacity stands at 24.1 million tonnes a year. (Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; writing by Katya Golubkova and Vladimir Soldatkin, editing by Elizabeth Piper and William Hardy)


BRUSSELS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - NATO and Swedish fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian intelligence-gathering plane that briefly entered Estonian airspace on Tuesday, the alliance said on Wednesday.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry called the Russian ambassador to the ministry and gave him a protest note over the incursion, the Estonian defence forces said.

Fighters from Denmark as well as Portuguese F-16s from NATO's air policing mission in the Baltics took off after radar detected an unidentified aircraft flying close to NATO airspace in the Baltic Sea, NATO said.

The plane was identified as a Russian IL-20 intelligence-gathering aircraft that had taken off from Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, heading towards Denmark.

The Russian aircraft was first intercepted by Danish F-16s and later, as it headed further north, by fighters from Sweden, which is not a NATO member.

The Russian aircraft turned south again, entering Estonian airspace for less than one minute, a NATO statement said.

Portuguese F-16s, which had been scrambled from their base in Lithuania, escorted the Russian plane away from NATO airspace.

Interceptions of Russian military aircraft by NATO planes over the Baltic region have increased since Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March, but usually Russian planes only approach NATO airspace and do not enter it, a NATO source said.

At a time when tension between Russia and the West is running high over Ukraine, Swedish forces have been scouring the sea off Stockholm following reports of activity by foreign submarines or divers using an underwater vehicle. (Reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels and David Mardiste in Tallinn; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

11:12 October 22, 2014


In less than a week, on October 27, Lithuania is scheduled to open its first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) import terminal at the port of Klaipeda. The terminal, which will begin receiving deliveries in early 2015, is a significant step toward changing the energy equation in Lithuania, the Baltic states, and ultimately in Europe as a whole.

Initially, Lithuania plans to buy enough LNG to cover about a quarter of its domestic needs. But once the terminal is operating at full capacity, and once Lithuania's pipelines to Latvia are upgraded, it will be able to supply 90 percent of the three Baltic states' natural gas demand.

Oh, and by the way, Lithuania's current supply contract with Gazprom expires at the end of next year.

And this is just one of the ways the gas game is changing. Poland is also building a LNG import terminal, which is scheduled to go online in mid-2015.

And as energy analyst  Wenyuan Qiu writes in "The Moscow Times" today, a steep rise in U.S. production has made it "functionally independent of offshore suppliers." As a result, "the closure of the U.S. LNG import market is forcing producers in the Middle East and Africa to look for customers elsewhere" leading to "downward pressure on prices" in Europe.

"Russia will remain an important European energy provider because its gas is relatively economic. But Russia's ability to leverage this resource as an instrument of foreign policy is diminishing," Qiu writes.


08:27 October 22, 2014


Some items from RFE/RL's News Desk:


European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has announced substantial progress was reached in October 21 talks between representatives of Ukraine and Russia on gas supplies, but a final deal has yet to be agreed.

A summit held in Milan October 17 had produced hopes for a breakthrough, after Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and said they had reached a preliminary agreement on a gas price until March 31.

Oettinger said as part of tentative deals, Ukraine planned to purchase some 4 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia before the end of this year.

Oettinger also said Ukraine would pay $1.4 billion of its debt to Russia for gas supplies already received before the end of October and another $1.6 billion by the end of this year.

The head of Russia's delegation to the talks, Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, said the price of gas for Ukraine would be $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, much lower than the $485 that Russia's state-controlled Gazprom was demanding just weeks ago.

However, the price, which was first announced by Poroshenko following his meeting with Putin on October 17, is still higher than the average of some $350 that Gazprom charges EU companies

Novak said that price would be in force from October 2014 until late March 2015 -- provided Ukraine pays in advance.

However, Novak added the EU should take responsibility for guaranteeing Ukraine pay its $5.3-billion debt for gas to Russia before the end of 2014.

Kyiv has asked the EU for an additional loan of $2.6 billion, but a spokesman stressed on October 21 that the request was not made in connection with the ongoing gas talks.

The EU has so far offered Kyiv loans totalling more than $2 billion.

Russia cut off gas deliveries tro Ukraine in mid-June, citing the $5.3-billion debt. However, Gazprom has not halted supplies transiting Ukraine en route to EU member states.

But Novak again ruled out Gazprom's agreeing to let EU states re-export its gas to Ukraine.

Oettinger announced another meeting would be held in Brussels on October 29.

Separately, the Kremlin said Putin and Poroshenko discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine among other issues during a telephone conversation October 21.

It didn't provide further details.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, TASS, and Interfax)


The independent Russian radio station "Ekho Moskvy" said it has been informed of an unscheduled inspection by the prosecutor's office.

The station's deputy chief editor Sergei Buntman said on October 21, "We received a document dated from yesterday (October 20) that said the main directorate of the Emergency Situation's Ministry" had requested the prosecutor's office to conduct an inspection of the radio station.

Buntman said according to the document, the inspection would start on October 22 and last for 20 working days.

"Taking into consideration days off, that means almost a month," Buntman said, and he added that the inspection should not affect the activities of the station.

Buntman said, "Of course questions arise about why this decision is taken so suddenly."

"Echo Moskvy" posted a copy of the document the radio station received that indicated the inspection was meant to determine if the station was in compliance with fire safety laws.

(Based on reporting by "Ekho Moskvy" and Interfax)


The Kremlin said the Russian and Ukrainian presidents stressed the importance of supporting the peace process in Ukraine and observing the ceasefire the country's south-east during a phone conversation on October 21.

President Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko also discussed Russian gas supplies to Ukraine after a tentative agreement reached in Milan last week on the basic terms of future supplies, the statement said.

It didn't provide further details.

Russia raised the price it charges Kyiv for natural gas after Ukraine's pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February, then halted gas supplies to Ukraine in June when Kyiv failed to pay the higher price.

Some progress was reportedly made toward resolving the issue of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine during last week's talks in Milan.

Poroshenko said a preliminary agreement had been reached on a price of $385 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of March -- $100 less than Russia had originally demanded.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, TASS, and


Russian investigators say the air crash that has killed the chief executive of French oil giant Total was caused “criminal negligence” by airport officials.

Christophe de Margerie and three French crew members died when his corporate jet collided with a snow-removal machine at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport late on October 20.

The Investigative Committee warned that several senior airport officials would be suspended, adding that investigators will assess the "actions and non-action" of management.

The snow plough driver has already been detained.

Investigators have said the man was drunk at the time of the accident, which his lawyer denied.

Total is one of the top foreign investors in Russia.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin "highly esteemed" Margerie's business qualities and his "consistent devotion" to developing bilateral Russia-French relations.

(Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, and TASS)


16:08 October 17, 2014


I just posted a new piece on the Power Vertical blog: Putin's Class of 2014.

The iPhone-toting hipsters hanging out in their trendy downtown Moscow office are just the high-profile part of the Kremlin's new youth strategy.

Founded in November 2013, the youth group Set -- which means "Network" in Russian -- has organized patriotic fashion shows and film festivals, created an alphabet for schoolchildren that highlights the regime's accomplishments, and painted murals in seven cities on October 7 to mark Russian President Vladimir Putin's 62nd birthday....

But the rise of Set is just one side of the story. The other aspect of the Kremlin's youth strategy is stealthier -- and much more consequential.

Over the past 18 months, Putin has been quietly bringing a new cadre of officials to Moscow, reshaping the rank-and-file bureaucracy in his own image.

You can read it all here.


We're in post-production for the new Power Vertical Podcast: Ukraine's Loyal Russians

A country divided between a Ukrainian-speaking west and a Russian-speaking east. An irreconcilable schism forged in history and set in stone. Lviv vs. Luhansk; Orange vs. Blue.

It's long been a truism that Ukraine was hopelessly split. It's a truism repeated endlessly by the Kremlin's propaganda machine -- and one used by Vladimir Putin to justify his Novorossiya project.

But it's a truism that the majority of Ukraine's ethnic Russians -- in cities like Odesa and Mariupol in the south to Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia in the east to Kharkiv in the north  -- are proving false. Most of Ukraine's ethnic Russians, it turns out, are loyal Ukrainian citizens.

Joining me are Andreas Umland, a professor of Russian and Ukrainian history at Kyiv Mohyla University and Natalya Churikova, Senior Editor of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. It's in post-production now and will be up soon.


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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