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The Morning Vertical, December 15, 2017


Pithy one-liners and salty language? Check.

Fawning questions from the state media? Check.

Evasive answers and inaccurate claims. Check and check.

In his marathon annual press conference, Vladimir Putin suggested doping whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov had been drugged by the FBI; he questioned the mental state of some U.S. officials, and he likened opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

He also delivered a mild -- albeit clear -- rebuke to Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, a longtime crony.

Putin launched his presidential campaign in earnest this week by answering -- or not answering -- the media's questions for nearly four hours.

So, what did we learn?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast we look at this annual winter ritual in light of the upcoming presidential election.

Joining me will be veteran journalist and Kremlin-watcher Kiryl Sukhotski, executive editor for RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time.

Also on the Podcast, Kiryl and I discuss the verdict in former Economics Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev's corruption trial and its political significance.


Russia's presidential election campaign is due to kick off on December 18 after the date for the March 18 vote was officially set.

A Moscow court has found former Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev guilty of taking a "large bribe" in a high-profile corruption case.

Three months before a presidential election, Russian truck drivers who oppose a road tax are trying to mount a nationwide protest despite the jailing of two of their leaders and a "foreign agent" designation from the government.

Vladimir Putin has announced he will run for reelection as an independent in March, defended U.S. President Donald Trump against allegations that his campaign colluded with Moscow, and accused the United States of violating a key nuclear arms control treaty in remarks at a marathon press conference in the Kremlin.

Britain's military chief says Russia could pose a major threat to NATO countries by attacking underwater communication cables crucial for international trade and the Internet.

A Russian court has rejected a claim by German conglomerate Siemens that the sale of power turbines which were delivered to Ukraine's Russian-occupied Crimea region was invalid.

European Union leaders have agreed to extend economic sanctions against Russia for six months over Moscow's aggressive actions in Ukraine.

Putin and Trump discussed the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program in a phone call in which Trump also thanked Putin for praising his management of the U.S. economy earlier in the day.

A court in the Russian city of St. Peterburg has sentenced a Central Asian man arrested in connection with a high-profile April bombing that killed 16 people on a subway train in the city.


New Reports On Hybrid Warfare

The NATO Stratcom Center for Excellence has a new report on Russian "robotrolling" of Poland and the Baltic states.

The Hague Center for Strategic Studies has a new report, Inside The Kremlin's House Of Mirrors, that looks at how liberal societies can counter Russian disinformation and societal interference.

The Rand Corporation has published a report, The Russian Way Of Warfare, on the evolution of the Russian armed forces.

The 'Secret History' Of A Consulate

In Foreign Policy, Zach Dorfman looks at the "secret history" of the Russian consulate in San Francisco.

NATO And Cyberwarfare

In Foreign Policy, Thomas Ricks looks at NATO's evolving approach to cyberwarfare.

Newly Declassified Documents

The National Security Archive at George Washington University has published declassified documents about the security assurances Western leaders offered to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 when German reunification was being negotiated.

Putin And The Clans

In a piece in Novoye Vremya-The New Times, former Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovsky looks ahead to how Putin will manage the clans after next year's election.

Candidate Sobchak

In, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin examines Ksenia Sobchak's qualities as a presidential candidate.

The Digital Republic Of Estonia

In The New Yorker, Nathan Heller takes a look at Estonia's "digital republic."

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: I will be travelling to Kaunas, Lithuania, from Dec 18 to December 20 to speak at the opening ceremony of the Andrei Sakharov Research Center for Democratic Development at Vytautas Magnus University. No Power Vertical products will appear on those days. The regular schedule resumes on Thursday, December 21.

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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