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The Morning Vertical, August 9, 2016


When the world was focused on the Summer Olympics in Beijing back in 2008, Vladimir Putin launched a war in Georgia. And when all eyes were on the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Putin was planning the forceful annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula -- which happened just weeks later. And given the clear escalation in the Donbas (see the exhaustive report in Novaya Gazeta featured below), and the disturbing movement of Russian troops and heavy weapons to the north of occupied Crimea near mainland Ukraine, commentators are wondering whether another "Olympic offensive" is on the way. It's hard to say, of course, whether or not this is the case. But in one sense, today's situation bears an eerie resemblance to the summer of 2008 -- when pro-Russian forces in South Ossetia relentlessly provoked Georgia until Mikheil Saakashvili finally took the bait, giving Moscow the pretext for an outright invasion. So as we all watch the Olympic action in Rio, it would be a good idea also keep an eye on Ukraine.


Tensions are reportedly high among residents of northern Crimea as long convoys of heavy Russian weaponry continue to be sighted not far from the occupied peninsula's border with the Ukrainian mainland.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has urged the public to resist pro-Russian propaganda following concerns about a branch of a Kremlin-backed news agency opening in Scotland.

American Lilly King beat Russian swimming star Yulia Yefimova to win a gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke in a race overshadowed by sniping over Russia's doping scandal.

The head of the Russian Paralympic Committee says a decision to bar Russian athletes from taking part in next month's Rio Paralympics over doping allegations is a grave human rights abuse.

Russia won five medals on the third day of the Summer Olympics, bringing their total to 10.

Russian antitrust authorities charged U.S. tech giant Apple with fixing the retail prices for iPhones in the country.

Russia's central bank has forecast meager growth for 2016, as the country's economy continues to be hobbled by low oil prices and Western sanctions.

A court in Kyiv has formally charged a former Ukrainian member of parliament with providing support to Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country.


The Mobbed-Up Banker

Spanish investigators allege that Russia's deputy central-bank chief, Aleksandr Torshin, directed dirty-cash flows for mafia. Bloomberg has the details.

Russia, Turkey, and the West

Writing in, Moscow-based political analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at what Moscow and Ankara hope to achieve in today's summit between Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg.

"In the talks with Erdogan Moscow sees geopolitical opportunities in at least three areas -- in relations with the West, in 'the Syrian front,' and in Eurasia. The summit could establish the framework for strategic partnership in which Russia sees itself as the senior partner," Frolov writes.

"Ankara also intends to play the Russian card in its relations with the European Union and the United States to reduce the criticism it received over human rights violations in suppressing the coup."

On the same topic, the Center on Global Interests asks a group of experts whether the West should fear a Russia-Turkey convergence.

Escalation in the Donbas

Novaya Gazeta has a very disturbing piece that takes an exhaustive look at recent developments in eastern Ukraine and concludes that they resemble an escalation toward a major offensive.

Writing on his Window on Eurasia blog, veteran Russia-watcher Paul Goble summarizes the media speculation that Russia is aiming to restart the war.

Liars and their Enablers

Open Russia has published the text of a recent talk by political analyst Yekaterina Schulmann on why politicians lie and why people believe them:

Crushing Dissent

BBC's One World has a new documentary, Russia -- Crushing Dissent, that looks back at the 2011-12 anti-Kremlin protests and the suppression of them by Vladimir Putin's regime.

Origins of the Five-Day War

EuroMaidan Press has a piece looking back at the origins of the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war.

Russia, the West, and Doping

MIkhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal has a post up on how the doping scandal exposes the growing divide between Russia and the West.

And For Today's Dose Of Whataboutism...

Russian state television is claiming that the use of the traditional Chinese medicinal practice of cupping by U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps is similar to doping.

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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