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The Morning Vertical, April 1, 2016


So another report has come out about corruption in Vladimir Putin's inner circle. Truth told, they're all beginning to blur into each other. It's almost become a ritual. The "shocking" report. The attention-grabbing headlines. (The Property Manager And Putin's Friends.) The Kremlin's denunciation of an information war by the West. And then? Nothing.
The corruption of this regime has been well documented -- in Russia and in the West and in ways big and small -- for years. But allegations that would bring down any Western government, and even some non-Western governments, just doesn't ever seem to resonate with the Russian public.

Part of this is cynicism. Corruption is part of the fabric of Russian politics and most people just accept this. Part of it is propaganda. The Kremlin has successfully dismissed these reports as foreign attacks on Russia. And part of it is nihilism. There is a belief among Russians, encouraged by the regime's spin masters, that every government is corrupt and theirs is no different.

But with the economy deteriorating, you have to wonder when people will begin to get angry at the kleptocracy that governs them. Or if they ever will.


The Russian Embassy in London has expressed "surprise" over British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond's remarks this week that Russia is a threat to the world.

A Russian journalist has been found dead of stab wounds in St. Petersburg.

Moscow has promised an "asymmetric response" to NATO's military buildup in Eastern Europe.

Russian and Serbian foreign ministers meet in Moscow.

Russia's Supreme Court is holding a hearing on a challenge to a European Court ruling.

The Security Council is considering a proposal to make the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Antinarcotics Service part of the Interior Ministry.


Wow! The Truth On Russian Television

I did today's Daily Vertical on liberal politician Leonid Gozman's remarkable comments on Russian television in which he said Russia was responsible for a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed thousands of people and that as a citizen of the Russian Federation, he bears responsibility for this.

Before being shouted down by guests, Gozman also called on Vladimir Putin to release Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko and appealed to Ukrainians, saying that all Russians do not support the "barbarism and cruelty" that Moscow has unleashed on their country.

You can watch the whole exchange here.

News Flash! Putin Is Corrupt

So now we know what Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was probably talking about when he said the Western media is preparing an "information attack" on Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

Separate reports by Reuters and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) look at the activities of Grigory Baevsky, a 47-year-old business associate of Putin's judo partner Arkady Rotenberg.

"Baevsky not only helped Putin handle some of his most delicate personal situations but also made a fortune from questionable deals with the Russian state," according to the OCCRP report.

And Reuters noted that he "provided properties to multiple women who share one common theme: President Vladimir Putin."

Nuclear Insecurity

Vladimir Putin's absence from this week's nuclear summit in Washington is raising eyebrows.

John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, has a piece in The National Interest titled How Russia Undermines Nuclear Security.

And Foreign Policy has a report on: U.S.-Russia Tensions Jeopardize Effort to Lock Down Loose Nukes.

New Charges For Ukraine Library Director

New charges have been filed against the director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow that could land her a five-year prison sentence. Natalya Sharina initially faced charges of "extremism" and "incitement." But those charges have been dropped and she is now being charged with misappropriating 1.4 million rubles of state funds.

The new charges were first reported by LifeNews, which is widely reputed to have ties to the security services.

Beware Of April Fools

The funny thing about April Fools' jokes in the Russian media is that, lately, it's difficult to tell if they are true or not. Case in point: This "report" in about how Moscow is exploring the legal possibilities of reclaiming Alaska from the United States. They actually had me for a few seconds -- which is a sign of the times.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on 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


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