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The Morning Vertical, April 20, 2017


When Vladimir Putin's Kremlin calls someone a Nazi, it often means it views them as an existential threat.

When the Putin regime felt threatened by the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine and feared its contagion could spread to Russia, the propaganda machine kicked into gear and branded Ukraine's new leaders as fascists.

So today's video comparing opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to Adolf Hitler is a pretty clear signal that the Kremlin takes the threat the opposition leader and anticorruption crusader poses for the regime seriously.

The video uses the fiery nationalist rhetoric that Navalny used in the past, but has since toned down since he has gained a liberal following, to make the case that he is a dangerous Nazi.

Whether or not this will neutralize Navalny is still an open question. Every tactic the Kremlin has tried against him -- from trumped-up criminal cases to persistent petty harassment -- has failed so far.

In a piece featured below, Oleg Kashin argues that the anti-Navalny campaign will also likely backfire and succeed only in elevating him as a national political figure.

We'll see soon enough.


Reuters is reporting that a Kremlin-backed think tank developed plans to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Nikolai Andrushchenko, a prominent Russian journalist known for articles criticizing Russia’s government and President Vladimir Putin, has died at a hospital in St. Petersburg after being severely beaten by unknown assailants.

The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta received an envelope containing an unidentified white powder on April 19, the newspaper reported. The envelope's only return address was "Grozny," where officials have recently threatened the newspaper for reporting on the alleged torture and detention of men believed to be gay.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague has refused Ukraine’s request to impose provisional measures against Russia to block what Kyiv says is Russia's monetary and military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. But the court did issue a provisional ruling calling for a halt to what it says is "racial discrimination" against Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has promised not to raise taxes in 2017 and vowed to consider indexing retirement payments for working pensioners, delivering a moderately upbeat annual report on the troubled economy.

A spacecraft carrying a U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut has blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, heading for the International Space Station.

A Ukrainian biathlete who tested positive in 2016 for the banned drug meldonium had her one-year ban lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Five Russian athletes were suspended for two years each after admitting that they used the banned steroid turinabol, the All-Russian Athletics Federation said.

Vladimir Putin will meet in Russia today with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the deputy commander in chief of the United Arab Emirates' armed forces.

Russia's media regulator says Twitter has agreed to store some of its users' data inside Russia, a move that would comply with domestic law but stoke further fears about user privacy and surveillance.

A construction worker who is on hunger strike in Russia's Siberian region of Khakassia has been hospitalized and is listed in serious condition.

The European Union warned Moldova to honor its trade accord with the bloc in the face of President Igor Dodon's turn toward Russia.


The Attack On Navalny

After reports that the Kremlin was preparing a campaign against Aleksei Navalny (see yesterday's Morning Vertical), a video has surfaced comparing the opposition leader to Adolf Hitler.

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin argues that the attempt to smear Navalny will probably end up helping him.

Finland's Counterhybrid War

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, has a piece on the Center for European Policy Analysis website looking at Finland's efforts to resist Russia's hybrid-war tactics.

Misunderstanding Putin's War

Taras Kuzio, author of the book Putin's War Against Ukraine: Revolution, Nationalism, And Crime, has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website on why we continue to misunderstand Russia's war in Ukraine.

Detaching The Donbas

Bloomberg has a report looking at how Russia is moving to "detach" the separatist-held areas of the Donbas from Ukraine.

Lenin Lives!

According to a new poll by the Levada Center, Vladimir Lenin's popularity is surging ahead of the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Zyuganov Wavers

Vedomosti has a piece on the wrangling inside the Communist Party on whether Gennady Zyuganov will run for president next year.

Russia's Sea Power

Tom Fedyszyn, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, has a piece in the War On The Rocks blog on how Russia is "a land power hungry for the sea."

SRB Podcast

The latest installment of the SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at the Georgian diaspora in the Soviet empire. Sean's guest is Erik Scott, a history professor at the University of Kansas and author of the book Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora And The Evolution Of Soviet Empire.

The Uneasy Status Quo In The South Caucasus

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and author of the book Black Garden: Armenia And Azerbaijan Through Peace And War, has given an interview to the University of Southern California's Center for Armenian Studies on the uneasy status quo in the South Caucasus.

Focus On The Intermarium

The Institute for World Politics is launching a new Center for Intermarium Studies, which will focus on the area between the Baltic, the Black, and the Adriatic seas formerly dominated by the Soviet Union.

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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