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The Morning Vertical, August 11, 2016


Russia's allegations that Ukraine sent agent-saboteurs to Crimea to carry out "terrorist" attacks and were thwarted by the FSB is a sign of the times. It's a story without verifiable facts. Instead, there are just the allegations of Russian officials and the posts of some pro-Kremlin bloggers.

And without facts, all we have are competing narratives.

This is emblematic of the post-fact world the Kremlin prefers to operate in -- one where what matters isn't what actually happened, but the story you can spin about what happened. It's a world where the truth is negotiable. One where a popular uprising in Ukraine is magically transformed into a fascist coup. One where the clear shooting down of a civilian airliner by pro-Moscow separatists becomes a mystery we will never get to the bottom of. One where a Russian effort to prop up a dictator in Syria becomes an antiterrorist operation. The Kremlin wants a post-fact and post-truth world because in such a world, anything goes and only might makes right.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has lashed out at Ukraine, accusing the government of "terror" after the Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Kyiv tried to send saboteurs into Crimea and that a soldier and an FSB officer were killed thwarting the alleged armed raids.

Putin held a meeting with his Security Council to discuss additional security measures for Crimea as Moscow accuses Kyiv of trying to destabilize the Russian-occupied peninsula with saboteurs.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said the U.S. "has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a Crimea incursion."

Russia says its forces will halt fire around Aleppo for three hours daily to allow humanitarian aid into the ravaged Syrian city.

The leader of the Russian opposition PARNAS party, Mikhail Kasyanov, has been reportedly attacked by unknown individuals in the southern city of Stavropol.

A judge has been gunned down in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Daghestan.


What Happened -- Or Didn't Happen -- In Crimea

The Kremlin's claims yesterday that it foiled a plot by Ukrainian agents to carry out terrorist attacks in Russian-occupied Crimea is lacking one important element -- supporting facts. So far, all we have are the accusations of Russian officials and the denials of Ukrainian officials.

Journalists and bloggers, meanwhile have stepped into the void and tried to fill in the blanks.

One of the most helpful efforts so far comes from The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab, which weighed in with a piece on what the open-source evidence available online tells us.

Meanwhile, over at Global Voices, Kevin Rothrock weighs in with a piece about how pro-Kremlin bloggers had been making the same allegations for days as the Kremlin made yesterday. also weighed in with a piece -- Terror, Provocation, or Practice - What happened in Crimea? -- that looks at the allegations, verifiable facts, rumors, gossip, and theories about the alleged incident.

Meduza has one of its classic "what we know so far" pieces.

And at The American Interest, Damir Marusic parses Vladimir Putin's statement on the alleged incident to get a window on what the Kremlin leader is trying to gain.

Best Frienemies

Writing in the Financial Times, political analyst Lilia Shevtsova argues that Russia is the main beneficiary of the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The Kremlin sees upsides whichever way it goes. If the West decides it cannot do anything about Mr. Erdogan’s push for absolute power, this will justify Moscow's mantra about Western hypocrisy and suggests the West will stomach any authoritarian crackdown. A soft line on Mr. Erdogan could also strengthen the hand of those who propose accommodating Russia -- who include, to judge by their rhetoric, Germany's Social Democrats, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition," Shevtsova writes.

"If, on the other hand, Turkey’s relationship with the West deteriorates, the Kremlin will be even happier. It could then play each side against the other, embracing Mr. Erdogan against the West or vice versa. Most likely, it will try to do both."

And in his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that despite the outwardly warm summit between Putin and Erdogan in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin leader is still not getting what he wants from the Turkish president.

"Putin's apparent reservations about the reconciliation are more than the natural residual mistrust of a man who demands complete loyalty. The Russian leader wants specific results from his friendships, and Erdogan appears to have given him no promises," Bershidsky writes.

The Tandem -- Again

Political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya has a piece in looking at the evolution of the relationship between Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in context of the recent public initiatives to force the prime minister to resign.

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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