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The Daily Vertical: The Kremlin's Frankenstein Monster (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calls them "extremists" and says the police should crack down on them.

Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky calls them "sectarian arsonists."

And in an editorial, the newspaper Vedomosti has asked why Patriarch Kirill has been silent about them.

The growing extremism of Orthodox Christian activists -- most notably the threats from a group ominously calling itself "Christian State" against movie theaters showing the controversial film Matilda, which depicts a romantic liaison of Tsar Nicholas II -- was entirely predictable.

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And so were violent acts like the Molotov cocktail attack on the St. Petersburg studio of Matilda's director, Aleksei Uchitel, and the two arson attacks on cars near the Moscow office of Uchitel's lawyer.

Ever since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012, his regime has encouraged, manipulated, and utilized the most nationalistic, xenophobic, and nativist elements in society for political gain.

It was just a matter of time before some of them went rogue.

Now, the Kremlin claims to be shocked and appalled about the emergence of radical groups like Christian State.

And the recent violence and threats of violence does create the appearance that the Putin regime is losing control over the Frankenstein monster it created.

But we would also be foolish not to expect the Kremlin to use this atmosphere of fear to its advantage.

What better opportunity, after all, for the Putin regime to present itself as a moderate, measured, and responsible voice of reason.

And just in time for election season.

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NOTE TO POWER VERTICAL READERS, VIEWERS, AND LISTENERS: I will be traveling to Washington, Vilnius, and Riga from September 17-October 1. As a result, no Power Vertical products will appear between September 18 and September 29. The regular Power Vertical schedule will resume on October 2.