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The Morning Vertical, August 21, 2017


On one hand, Moscow is getting something it wants with today's meeting in Minsk with U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker: the symbolism of Moscow and Washington resolving the war in Ukraine together -- without the Ukrainians present.

But it comes with a twist. From the Belarusian capital, Volker will travel to Vilnius to discuss "the way forward in Ukraine" with Lithuanian officials.

And from there, he will join U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis for high-level meetings with Ukrainian officials.

Volker has also said Washington is considering sending arms to Ukraine, something Kyiv has long sought.

Moreover, as Timothy Ash suggests in a piece featured below, Moscow appears to believe that the political winds in Ukraine are shifting in Russia's favor.

On today's Power Vertical Briefing (featured below), we discuss how both Moscow and the West are telegraphing their next moves with regard to Ukraine. So be sure to give it a listen.


The United States says that "all nonimmigrant visa operations" at U.S. missions across Russia will be suspended as of August 23 due to the Russian-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic staff.

The new U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Kurt Volker, is expected to meet with a Russian representative today in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

A small group of opposition activists in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don have held a protest calling for the regular turnover of political power.

The Arbitration Court of Moscow has declined to place a freeze on gas turbines manufactured by the German firm Siemens that were transferred to the illegally annexed region of Crimea earlier this year.

Police in St. Petersburg say they have arrested a suspect in an attack on LGBT activists and journalists after local lawmakers pressured authorities to investigate the incident.

Russian federal authorities in Moscow have taken over the investigation into a stabbing rampage in the city of Surgut that left seven people injured and was claimed by the extremist Islamic State group.

The Vatican's secretary of state is set to arrive in Moscow today for an official visit slated to include a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Officials in Ukraine have accused Russia-backed separatists of firing on the settlement of Zaitseve, in a government-controlled part of the Donbas region.


On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, we take advantage of what has been a quiet August to take stock of the storms brewing in Russian domestic politics and foreign affairs.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical blog post, The Ghosts Of August, explains why August has been a month of political watersheds for Russia.


And today's Power Vertical Briefing looks at the latest round of U.S.-Russian diplomacy on Ukraine.


What's Next In Ukraine?

In The Kyiv Post, Timothy Ash speculates about Russia's next moves in Ukraine.

August 1991 And Memory

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at how Russians remember the events of August 1991 and what this tells us about how they will remember the current era.

1917 And Memory

Nezavisimaya Gazeta has a piece on why Russians aren't interested in the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Why Lenin Lives

Alice E.M. Underwood has a post in The Kennan Institute's The Russia File blog on "why Lenin’s corpse lives on in Putin’s Russia."

The Ulyukayev Trial

In Novaya Gazeta, Yulia Latynina weighs in on the political subtext of the corruption trial of former Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.

And in Yezhednevny Zhurnal, Aleksandr Golts looks at Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin's role in the case.

Parsing Public Opinion

In an editorial, looks at the recent Global Attitudes Survey by Pew, which showed Russia's image declining overall -- but rising among the far right.

And Nezavisimaya Gazeta looks at a recent poll by the Levada Center on how the foreign policy messaging on Russian state television resonates with the public.

U.S.-Russian Relations

In The National Interest, Angela Stent, a former official with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. National Intelligence Council and currently the director of Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, argues that the impediments to improving U.S.-Russian relations are structural.

An American Revolution?

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia is a useful window into the thinking of the Putin regime. Political scientist Anderi Bezrukov's piece arguing that a new American "revolution" is now under way is no exception.

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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