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The Morning Vertical, April 26, 2016


It's nice to see that despite what appears to be a campaign of pressure from the Kremlin, the journalists at RBK aren't easing up a bit. Yesterday they published an investigative piece about the meteoric rise of businessman Dmitry Mazurov in Russia's oil business. A rise that got a big assist, according to the report, from friends of Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Of course, if the Kremlin wants to tame or shut down RBK, they'll find a way. But the fact that one of Russia's last outposts of independent journalism is prepared to be so defiant is cause for some guarded optimism.


Ukraine marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster

U.S. President Barack Obama Says Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine European unity

Investigators are saying that robbery was the motive in the mass killing of a police officer and five members of his family in Samara Oblast.

The BBC is disputing Russian claims that a documentary the broadcaster is due to air in May will show that Ukraine is responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.


Humanitarian Enemies of the People

Katerina Gordeeva at Meduza has a nice piece on the Kremlin's assault on NGOs: From Charity To Treason: How Russia’s Philanthropists Went From Heroes To Traitors.

Unpacking The Attack on RBK

Kevin Rothrock at Global Voices gives a comprehensive rundown of the Kremlin's attack on Mikhail Prokhorov and RBK.

RBK, meanwhile, has just published an investigative report about how cronies of Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin turned businessman Dmitry Mazurov into an oil mogul.

Rumors in the Corridors

In case you're wondering what's making the rounds on the Russian rumor mill, here's a quick rundown. (Teaser: Dmitry Medvedev was angry about Aleksandr Bastrykin's controversial article in Kommersant Vlast and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's relations with United Russia aren't great, just to name a couple.)

How Russia stopped loving the West

Denis Volkov of the Levada Center has a piece in Vedomosti looking at Russia's deteriorating attitudes toward the West and the United States. (Meduza has just posted a translation in English)

Steinmeier's Ostpolitik

It appears that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wants to end the standoff with Russia.

The Spy Who Went Out In The Cold

In The Daily Beast, Michael Weiss looks into Andrew Fulton, a former high-ranking spy with Britain's MI-6, who now works for Team Putin.

The Eurasian Disunion

Anton Barbashin of the Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding has a piece in Foreign Affairs, The Eurasian Illusion: The Myth Of The Myth Of Russia's Economic Union.

How to Guerilla-Market a Stereotype

Euromaidan Press takes a granular look at how Russia's myths about Ukraine seep into Western media coverage.

Meanwhile, in a piece for the Moscow Carnegie Center's website, Kommersant columnist Andrei Arkangelsky deconstructs Russian propaganda.

Kremlin propaganda, he writes, is "the result of a backlog of unresolved ethical and philosophical problems in the post-totalitarian consciousness. Its phobias and fears are now shared with us." Arkangelsky adds that "the propagandists are not telling us about the other -- America and the West -- but about themselves and their own dark cellars."

The Forest Brothers

I just came across this trailer for a new documentary film by Latvian filmmaker and politician Edvins Snore. The Unknown War: Baltic Resistance looks at the "Forest Brothers," who carried out a partisan campaign against the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states after World War II.

Putin and the Impotence of Omnipotence

In an interview with, LIlia Shevtsova says Putin is suffering from the "impotence of omnipotence."

"The Russian elite has become European at the level of consumption, but in order to preserve their incomes and consequently their power. They must isolate ordinary Russians from Europe and from European values," Shevtsova says. "The Kremlin will thus struggle with Western values inside Russia even as it tries to achieve compromises with European business and elites."

The Death of Russia's Civil Society

Jens Siegert has an essay in Intersection magazine asking: Does a Civil Society exist in Russia?

"Independent civil society in Russia scarcely even exists any more. Small and weak fragments remain, but they do not have any significant support from Russian society. They are marginalized, and their values seems not to be shared by the vast majority of the Russian people.
Must we though assume this attempt to ingrain democratic values into Russian society in the last 25 years a failure? Are we back at point zero or even below of it? Or is there something left, maybe even under the surface, which may give us hope?"

The New Russian Empire

Robert Legvold reviews Agnia Grigas' book, Beyond Crimea: The New Russian Empire, in Foreign Affairs.

Run Silent, Run Deep

The Wilson Center's MIchael Kofman has a piece on CNN's website looking at Russia's revived submarine program. How big of a military threat does it really pose?

Russia, China, and TTIP

On Carnegie Europe's website, Judy Dempsey looks at U.S. President Barack Obama's push for a new transatlantic relationship. Dempsey argues that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is vital to thwart Russia and China's efforts to undermine the existing global order.

"TTIP is not only about establishing a trade deal that would set crucial standards for how business is conducted. It is also about underpinning if not reviving the West’s liberal economic order, which is coming under massive pressure from Russia and particularly China," Dempsey writes.

Calling Things By Their Correct Names

Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, responds to Russian objections to the use of the term "Russia-backed separatists."

"The other element I wanted to comment on was the question about wording, in terms of use of the word 'separatists'. I'd just like to clarify, we use 'Russia-backed separatists' to indicate the accurate relationship -- or sometimes we use the term 'Russian-led separatist fighters' to, again, express accurately the connection between Russia and the fighters on the ground. And that is not a political term; it is meant to be a statement, an accurate statement, reflecting the situation and why we are so deeply engaged with the Russian Federation, as are Ukraine and others, to try to find a peaceful solution to this. Because we have to acknowledge that the Russian Federation is the key driver of the conflict, and has been the key driver of the conflict from the outset."

Ukraine's Prospects

Steven Pifer, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, has a couple pieces up on the Brookings Institution's website. One looks at what Ukraine's new government is (and isn't) likely to achieve. And another asks whether Kyiv will squander its Western support.

Atlantic Council Event On Russo-Turkish Relations

In Washington today, the Atlantic Council will hold an event, "The Future of the Russo-Turkish Relationship with Congressman Gerry Connolly," at 12:00 EDT

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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