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The Morning Vertical, August 31, 2016


In most countries, the revelations in opposition figure Ilya Yashin's new report, The Criminal Party of Russia, which alleges close ties between the ruling United Russia party and organized crime, would be a sensation. In Vladimir Putin's Russia, they pretty much describe business as usual.

As political analyst Vladimir Pastukhov notes in a piece featured below, the dynamism and longevity of the Putin regime is partially the result of a fusion of the formal institutions of the state with informal networks of officials and criminals. In this system, Putin is both the head of state and the godfather of the mob. Or as Pastukhov puts it, "Both the prince of light and the prince of darkness."

So it is hardly a shocker that Russia's ruling party is infested with criminals.


Opposition figure Ilya Yashin has published a new report accusing Russia's ruling United Russia party of having close ties to organized crime.

A Russian man wanted by the United States for alleged money laundering and illegal arms sales has left Armenia after being briefly detained in Yerevan.

Russia has questioned a report by the United Nations that blames Syrian government forces for two chlorine gas attacks and said the UN Security Council cannot use the conclusions to impose sanctions.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has rejected reports in U.S. media that Russia may have been involved in hacking into online voting systems in the United States ahead of the November U.S. presidential election.

Dozens of Chechens are camping in Belarus at the border with Poland, complaining that they are "refugees" who are being prevented from entering the EU-member country by Polish authorities.

A court in Russia has jailed a Russian man for fighting against Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk.

The Kremlin has announced that Putin will visit Japan in December as Moscow and Tokyo strive to ease tensions over disputed islands.

IKEA has warned it could delay planned investment in Russia after a court ordered it to pay millions of dollars in damages in a long-running legal dispute.


Report: Russia's Criminal Party

Open Russia has published the full text of opposition leader Ilya Yashin's report on ties between the ruling United Russia party and organized crime. They have also posted a video of Yashin presenting the report.

Reorganizing The Empire

Political analyst Vladimir Pastukhov, a visiting fellow at St. Antony's College at Oxford University, has an interesting piece in on the personnel changes in the Kremlin. Pastukhov argues that what is going on is not just a change in cadres but a complete overhaul of Putin's governing model that threatens to upend the system.

"This regime's unique long-term vitality was due to the fact that in place of institutions power resided in informal and often semicriminal networks," Pastukhov writes.

"Putin was both the head of state and the leader of this formally nonexistent, but very powerful and vast, organization...Putin's unique versatility, his ability to be both the prince of light and the prince of darkness, to a large extent explains the success of his long reign."

Multipolarity Or Unilateralism?

Novosibirsk-based political analyst Anton Barbashin has a piece in Intersection magazine (in Russian and English) looking at what Russia really means when it talks about a multipolar world.

"The Russian version of multipolarity is not about the establishment of a new system of checks and balances between developing nations with a goal of creating a safer world based on the principles of international law, as Putin spoke of back in 2003. Russia, circa 2016, would prefer not even 19th-century Europe as we are accustomed to hearing (remember the anti-Napoleonic coalition and Crimea War), but a world of the 1930s where beside powerful France and England, the U.S.S.R. and Germany could have an almost unchecked increase in their potential, building their own 'centers of power' and eventually dominating the neighbors," Barbashin writes.

"A multipolar world for Russia serves as a possibility to break international law when it is 'just' and fits with the real balance of power as seen from Moscow."

Russia And Iran

Writing in Foreign Policy, Anna Borshchevskaya, an Ira Weiner fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, looks at the emerging dynamics in Russia's alliance with Iran.

"Russia’s new military alliance with Iran is all about keeping Assad in power and America on its back foot. But marriages of convenience usually don’t last," Borshchevskaya writes.

"But a short-term alliance can do long-term damage to U.S. interests, and tactical victories can add up to a strategy. U.S. and European officials should neither underestimate Putin’s Middle Eastern ambitions nor the challenges that his growing anti-Western alliance in the region presents."

War Games

Writing in The National Interest, Simon Saradzhyan, assistant director of the U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism and a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, takes a look at Russia's snap military exercises.

"The latest series of military exercises in Russia have unnerved its Western neighbors, who are concerned that Russia may be preparing for a military campaign. The Russian military is indeed preparing for war, but that does not mean the Kremlin actually plans to initiate one anytime soon," Saradzhyan writes.

The Christian Science Monitor, meanwhile, has a reported piece asking: "How big a military threat is Russia, really?"

The Disappearing Democrats

Political analyst Olga Irisova has a piece in Intersection magazine (in Russian and English) looking at what happened to the massive crowds of Russians who took to the streets to support democracy 25 years ago.

The Closing Window To The West

Also in Intersection magazine, Artem Filatov of Ekho Moskvy looks at "how Russia’s regions closest to the European Union are severing economic and political ties with the West." The piece is available in Russian and English.

Flag Day Detention

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has a report on how authorities in the separatist-controlled area of Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast detained an elderly woman for carrying a Ukrainian flag to commemorate Flag Day.

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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