Monday, November 24, 2014


The Power Vertical

With Popularity Fading, United Russia Tries To Get Sexy

Workers post a United Russia campaign banner for the State Duma elections in Moscow.
Workers post a United Russia campaign banner for the State Duma elections in Moscow.
Amidst rapidly declining poll numbers, the ruling United Russia party has released a steamy online video designed to win the support of younger voters.

The spot, titled "Let's Do It Together," shows an attractive woman entering a polling station where a young man attempts to flirt with her. After the man holds open the curtain to the voting booth for her, the woman pulls him into the booth. Seconds later, the two emerge disheveled and smiling as they cast their ballots together.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:


The video was released as a poll by the independent Levada Center showed United Russia's rating drop nine points in just one week -- from 60 percent to 51 percent.

The same poll, conducted from October 28-November 1, shows President Dmitry Medvedev's approval rating falling to 57 percent from 62 percent the previous week. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's rating also fell 5 percent in a week, to 61 percent.

As this blog has taken pains to point out in the past, public opinion polls in Russia should usually be taken with a grain of salt. But sometimes it makes sense to pay attention and I think this is one of those times.

While the Levada Center poll got the most media attention this week, the survey that really got my attention was an internal one conducted for the Kremlin, which was leaked to Gazeta.ru.

That poll, according to the Gazeta.ru report, showed a startling number of regional leaders -- many of whom will be leading United Russia's regional party lists in the December State Duma elections -- with approval ratings below 20 percent.

Here is a list of some of Russia's least popular regional leaders:

Andrei Nelidov (Karelia) -- 11 percent
Pavel Ipatov (Saratov) -- 14 percent
Oleg Bogomolov (Kurgan) -- 15 percent
Anatoly Brovko (Volgograd) -- 15 percent
Ilya Mikhalchuk (Arkhangelsk) -- 16 percent
Aleksandr Mikhailov (Kursk) -- 17 percent

That poll follows another internal Kremlin poll, also leaked to Gazeta.ru, that showed United Russia's numbers dangerously under water in several key regions, including Moscow (29 percent), St. Petersburg (31 percent) and Kaliningrad Oblast (27 percent).

Will all this matter in the end? Probably not. The governors may be unpopular, but they have massive administrative and bureaucratic resources at their disposal to get out the vote for United Russia.

In a commentary in Gazeta.ru, Gleb Cherkasov writes that while the ruling party may not match the massive victory it won in the 2007 elections this December, it will still hold a clear majority in the Duma. And Putin, he adds, is virtually assured election in March, despite his falling numbers.

But, Cherkasov adds, during his second stint in the Kremlin, Putin will be hard pressed to return to the lofty heights of popularity he once enjoyed:

The ratings of Vladimir Putin and all those professionally associated with him are falling. This is still nothing like a collapse but is increasingly suggestive of a trend. Those who dislike the regime see this fact as pleasing evidence of the growth of opposition sentiments, while Putin's supporters demonstratively disbelieve the polls and feel that he will achieve his usual hefty victory.

This is a rare occasion when both sides are right. The elections will indeed be successful: Even if the December phase proves not to be overly encouraging for the regime, in March all the figures will fall into place. It is possible that poor autumn figures will be absolutely overshadowed by the results of the spring vote. That said, Vladimir Putin's popularity is indeed declining, and...it will be quite hard to get his rating back to its traditional place.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,United Russia,2011 State Duma elections,Dmitry Medvedev

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ossetians from: 1@1.com
November 10, 2011 04:59
Yeah, and forget the 2008_South_Ossetia_war. That's very smart!
And then we'll see the Nazi Party making the headlines.
And that video makes me sick.
Just do your job and that's good enough.

by: Joe
November 10, 2011 11:54
Excerpted from the above blog post title: "tries to get sexy"? (sic)

That video and some (stress some) of the United Russia member are far more sexier than the individuals that this blog and RFE/RL at large generally promote.
In Response

by: eli from: freedonia
November 10, 2011 15:23
geez, Averko, you really told them there!

like too many of your comments, all you can say is "RFE is stupid," but in your usual leaden prose, pompously trying to sound authoritative.

others manage to actually call them out for their coverage or reporting, but you just say they're biased. wow, good job. nice argument. just another knee-jerk Super Slav, defending the glorious orthodox flag. you're your own worst enemy.
In Response

by: Joe
November 11, 2011 18:12
Quite a perverse obsession you've over one person.

Your ironic blather doesn't come close to refuting anything I said.

In Response

by: Asehpe from: Netherlands
November 14, 2011 07:46
Nor does your own blather, Joe. How can one disprove that which wasn't proved to start with -- since all you did was make a claim? If you write that the moon is made of green cheese, there won't be any "proof that you're wrong" either. All one can do is say that this is not true.
In Response

by: Joe
November 14, 2011 12:28
You further substantiate my point Asehpe.

Your comment about the moon better applies to what you stated.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: Netherlands
November 18, 2011 19:34
Joe: how do I substatiate your point?

Seems to me I attack it.
In Response

by: Stig from: Sweden
December 04, 2011 14:54
So, what, "Joe"? What exactly are you trying to say? You don't like RFE/RL? Then why the f are you even here writing comments? You do make yourself look foolish.

Sorry, whoever you are, but that's the way it is.

by: Mark from: Victoria
November 14, 2011 04:04
Yes, come on, United Russia!!! Get with the program!! A few moments of observing real democracy in action, and you'd know that going deeply negative right out of the gate is the way to campaign. Something like, "My opponent, unfortunately, wants to raise your taxes so he can spend more on prostitutes and 5-star holidays, and will make your children walk to school with holes in their shoes" That's the way to do it!! Sex? Lame.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/attack-ads-2012-election-cycle_n_1007021.html

Oh, news sources from outside the country will shriek that you're spreading lies about honest people, that your accusations are fabricated and that you're cheapening and degrading the democratic process. Real democracies do not pay any attention at all to such criticism. Let them eat cake, as Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said.

If you ever expect to be a free-market democracy, you'd be well-advised to study how the professionals do it. Watch, and learn.

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

19:16 November 21, 2014

POWER VERTICAL PODCAST: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

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.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014

AND AS TENSIONS RISE IN THE BALTICS...

09:09 November 21, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINE MARKS START OF EUROMAIDAN PROTESTS WITH NEW HOLIDAY
By RFE/RL
Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

BIDEN TO MEET UKRAINIAN LEADERS, ANNOUNCE NONLETHAL U.S. AID
By RFE/RL
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

RUSSIAN OLYMPIAN CHARGED WITH SPOUSAL ABUSE IN UNITED STATES
Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO: RUSSIAN ACTIVITY IN BALTICS POSES RISK
NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)

 

16:55 November 19, 2014

MORE ON THE SOURCES OF RUSSIAN ANTI-AMERICANISM

Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014

UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION WAR

MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014

WHY IS PUTIN PICKING A FIGHT WITH THE U.S.?

Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014

UKRAINE SAYS MHI7 SHOT DOWN BY RUSSIAN CREW

14:47 November 19, 2014

AFTERNOON NEWS ROUNDUP: THE SEQUEL

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

KYIV, WEST SAY RUSSIA CANNOT BAR UKRAINE FROM NATO

Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)

PUTIN TELLS U.S. ENVOY TIES MUST BE BASED ON EQUALITY

President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

RUSSIA SAYS 2010 NUCLEAR ARMS PACT STILL IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS

By RFE/RL

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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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