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The Morning Vertical, April 6, 2017


This week's devastating chemical weapons attack in Syria not only reminded us yet again of Bashar al-Assad's brutality, it also exposed the cynicism and dishonesty at the heart of Russia's foreign policy.

Russia proposed and brokered an agreement in 2013 to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

That agreement helped prevent U.S.-and-French-led international military action against Assad in response to the August 2013 Ghouta chemical-weapons attack.

Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war in 2015 likely saved Assad from almost certain defeat.

Moscow has insisted that that any peace settlement in Syria keep Assad in power.

And against the preponderance of evidence, Vladimir Putin's regime continues to insist that Assad was not responsible for this week's attack.

Putin has supported, propped up, and defended Assad. He owns him. Assad now is Putin's creature.

And that makes Putin's regime an accomplice to war crimes.


Authorities in St. Petersburg say an explosive device has been discovered in an apartment building and defused.

Russia says National Guard troops have killed four men suspected of involvement in a deadly attack on traffic police in the southern city of Astrakhan.

The number of Russians living in poverty reached 19.8 million last year, the highest in a decade, as the economy struggled through a recession following a sharp oil-price drop and the imposition of Western sanctions over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said that "all evidence points" to the Syrian government being behind a devastating chemical attack this week, and called on Russia to honor its agreement to help eliminate chemical weapons in Syria.

Two Democratic lawmakers are pushing a new measure to keep U.S. President Donald Trump from altering current U.S. policy toward Russia until an ongoing FBI investigation is completed.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Moscow on April 12 for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

U.S. authorities have deported a man convicted of working as an unregistered Russian government agent, in a case that has shed light on Russian intelligence operations in the United States.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev has said Russia and Uzbekistan signed investments deals worth $12 billion during his two-day visit to Moscow.

Andrei Nikitin, a Russian Muslim who was mistakenly mentioned as a possible bomber in the April 3 attack on the St. Petersburg subway, has been facing discrimination since the incident.

Russian activist Ildar Dadin's application for a Russian foreign-travel passport has been denied, his wife, Anastasia Zotova, says.

A Kazakh-born man accused of working with Russian intelligence officials to hack over a half-billion Yahoo e-mail accounts has asked a Canadian court to release him on bail.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has appointed Maria Gaidar, a former politician and activist in Russia, as an adviser.


In case you missed it, my latest Power Vertical blog post looks at how the Kremlin is trying to use this week's attack in St. Petersburg to change the domestic conversation in Russia.


More On LGBT Persecution in Chechnya has an interview with a gay man from Chechnya who escaped an attempted honor killing.

The Kremlin's Antiterror Demonstrations

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks behind the curtain of the Kremlin's antiterroristm demonstrations that begin today.

Russia And Syria's Chemical Weapons Attack

The New York Times looks at the holes in Russia's account of this week's chemical-weapons attack in Syria.

Russian Troops Menace Georgia has a piece about how Russian troop deployments to Abkhazia and South Ossetia are menacing Georgia.

Active Measures In Central Europe

The Prague Security Studies Institute has a report on Russian influence operations in Central Europe.

Active Measures In The Baltics

Latvia's Re:Baltica has a piece on how Russia is intensifying its propaganda and active measures in the Baltic states

OCCRP Strikes Again

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has a new report alleging that the new husband of Vladimir Putin's ex-wife owns a 7 million-euro villa in Biarritz, France.

The Kremlin's Antiquity Fixation

Maria Engstrom of Dalarna University in Sweden has a piece in Intersection magazine on why the Kremlin is suddenly fascinated with antiquity.

New Levada Poll

A new Levada Center poll finds that anticorruption protests have the support of 38 percent of Russians, that trust in the authorities is falling, and support for Aleksei Navalny is rising.

Belarus's Social Contract

Andrew Wilson, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and a professor at University College London, has a new piece on Belarus's fraying social contract.

The Kremlin's African Game

In a piece in Foreign Affairs, Oren Kessler and Boris Zilberman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies look at Russia's growing influence in North Africa.

Putin Loyalists In Washington

According to a report in Bloomberg, Putin loyalists are invading Washington.

Ukraine's Anticorruption NGOs In Peril?

On The Atlantic Council's website, Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Kyiv-based Anti-Corruption Action Center, argues that a crackdown is coming against Ukraine's anticorruption crusaders.

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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