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The Morning Vertical, August 24, 2017


There is conspicuously little consensus about what is behind the bizarre criminal case against theater director Kirill Serebrennikov.

Some, like opposition journalist Oleg Kashin, have framed it as the opening bell of Vladimir Putin's election campaign (see Kashin's piece in featured in the Morning Vertical earlier this week).

In an editorial this week, Meduza compared Serebrennikov's case to that of Vsevolod Meyerhold, the director who was arrested and executed at the height of Josef Stalin's Great Terror.

Others, like Yulia Latynina (in a piece featured below), have focused on how the case doesn't really help Putin at all, and instead illustrates that Russian law enforcement is spinning out of control.

Such speculation tends to note that Putin has reportedly called the investigators in the case "fools."

And some media have speculated that the case is being driven by Russia's ultraconservative culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky (although I am skeptical that Medinsky has the necessary juice in the Kremlin to move the law-enforcement apparatus on his own).

It's all pretty murky at this point, and will remain so until we have more data points to work with.

But what is clear, as I noted on yesterday's Daily Vertical, is that due to the prominence of the defendant and the utterly Orwellian nature of the charges, this case is indeed a watershed.


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Kyiv for Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations and talks with President Petro Poroshenko and Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak.

Russia's ambassador to Sudan has died at his residence in Khartoum, Sudanese and Russian officials have said.

A former top Russian central bank official known for his criticism of Kremlin policies says he is not in Russia and is not under arrest, commenting on media reports that he was detained at a Moscow airport for allegedly failing to make a customs declaration about Soviet-era medals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks with visiting Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in the Russian city of Sochi.

Russia plans to send 30 teachers to secondary schools in Tajikistan by September 1, the first day of the next academic year.

John Tefft, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia, says the U.S. move to suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations at U.S. missions across Russia is a result of forced staff cuts and "not about being vindictive."

The coordinator of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's presidential election campaign staff in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan region, has been detained.


Today's Must Read: A Primer For Zapad-2017

Want to know what to expect from next month's Zapad-2017 military exercises? Michael Kofman, a military analyst at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, has an excellent primer in War On The Rocks.

Serebrennikov Fallout

Yulia Latynina has a piece in Novaya Gazeta arguing that the detention of theater director Kirill Serebrennikov is politically dangerous for Vladimir Putin.

RBK and Vedomosti also look at the political fallout from the Serebrennikov case.

The Importance Of Navalny's 'Pointless' Campaign

On the Kennan Institute's Russia File blog, Sergei Parkomenko explains the importance of Aleksei Navalny's "pointless" election campaign.

A Pre-Revolutionary Situation?

On his blog for the BBC Russian Service, Vladimir Pastukhov, a Russian historian at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University, argues that Russia in in a prerevolutionary situation.

Russia And The German Election

In Intersection magazine, Dmitri Stratievski, deputy director of the Berlin Center for East European Studies, looks at "relations with Russia in the mirror of Germany’s election campaign."

Russia, Belarus, And Baltic Ports

Syarhey Bohdan, a political analyst with the Minsk-based Ostrogorski Center, has a piece in the Belarus Digest looking at Russia's efforts to pressure Belarus not to export refined petroleum products via Latvian and Lithuanian ports.

Sharing Encounters With The Police

Meduza has a piece about Russian Facebook users sharing their experiences with the police.

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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