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The Morning Vertical, April 19, 2017


Truckers protesting a new road tax are continuing. Wage arrears are on the rise leading to protests in the regions. Some two-thirds of Russians hold Vladimir Putin responsible for official corruption.

And yet, somehow, Putin's approval rating remains stratospheric at well over 80 percent.

How do you explain this paradox?

In an insightful piece in featured below, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya offers an answer. Stanovaya notes that support for Putin has "become ritualistic" and reflects not an "active and positive attitude toward him" but rather "passive acquiescence toward what is happening and fear that it will be worse."

If this is accurate, it is reminiscent of the late Soviet period when support for the regime became nothing more than an empty ritual. And that would be a very dangerous sign for the Putin regime because once the spell is broken, once the bubble bursts, the regime would have nothing to sustain it.

It is especially dangerous as Aleksei Navalny successfully harnesses the issue of official corruption in an effort to disrupt the ritual and turn passive acquiescence into active resistance.

The Kremlin appears acutely aware of the threat Navalny poses. As Dozhd TV reports (in a piece featured below), the Kremlin is preparing a new campaign to discredit the opposition leader as he gears up to lead a new round of nationwide protests in June.

Apparently we're in for a hot summer.


The International Court of Justice is due to issue a ruling today on Kyiv’s bid to block Russia from sending money, weapons, and troops to eastern Ukraine.

Rescuers are searching for nine crew members missing at sea after a cargo ship sank off Russia's Black Sea coast.

Russia, China, and Kazakhstan were among the nations that opposed a move by the United States on April 18 to make a link between human rights abuses and conflicts at the United Nations.

A pair of Russian nuclear-capable bombers flew near Alaska, the Pentagon said, coming as close as 100 miles from Kodiak Island.

Vladimir Putin has congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a referendum that will expand his powers, the Kremlin and Turkish state media said.

A senior Russian lawmaker has called RFE/RL, Voice Of America, and CNN part of an “American system of pressure” targeting Russia.

A court in Moscow has ordered the pretrial detention of a ninth suspect in connection with the April 3 suicide bombing of a St. Petersburg subway train that killed 15 people and injured 45 people.


New Report: Russia's Criminal International

Power Vertical regular Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a new report out for The European Council on Foreign Relations: Crimintern: How the Kremlin uses Russia’s criminal networks in Europe.

Wage Arrears And Protests

Oxford Analytica takes a look at the relationship between wage arrears and protests in Russia's regions.

Paying For Crimea

A new poll by the Levada Center shows that Russians still strongly support Russia's annexation of Crimea, but are less enthusiastic about Moscow's financial support for the peninsula.

Russia And The French Election

In her column for The Guardian, Natalie Nougayrede argues that surging leftist French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon is "anti-German, soft on Putin," and "no savior of the left."

In The New York Times, Andrew Higgins explains why it is now France's turn to worry about Russian election meddling.

The Info War In The Baltics

A new piece in re:baltica looks at Russia's "small-time propagandists" in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

The Info War In Georgia

The Media Development Fund has a new report out on anti-Western propaganda in Georgia.

Sex And Russian Propaganda In Europe

Andrew Rettman has an investigative piece in EUObserver on how Russia's propagandists have been seeking to incite sexual revulsion toward asylum seekers in Europe.

The Kremlin And The American Fringe

In Intersection magazine, Casey Michel explains how Putin is courting the American fringe on both the left and right.

Goodbye California, Hello Russia

CalExit movement leader Louis Marinelli has announced that he is abandoning his campaign to make California independent and plans to settle in Russia

The Paradox Of Russian Public Opinion

In her column for, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya explains the paradox of Russians' irritation with official corruption and Putin's high approval rating.

The Plot Against Navalny

Dozhd TV is reporting, citing multiple Kremlin sources, that Putin's regime is preparing a new campaign to discredit Aleksei Navalny

The Nemtsov Assassination

Kommersant has published a video and transcript of the initial interrogation of Zaur Dadaev, the alleged triggerman in the February 2015 assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

Russia's Zapad Exercises

Defense analyst Kyle Mizokami has a piece in The National Interest on why Russia's Zapad exercises are a cause for concern.

The West Vs. The West

In a piece for The American Interest, Andrew Michta argues that "the greatest threat to the liberal international order comes not from Russia, China, or jihadist terror but from the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture."

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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