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ON MY MIND

The fact that after Aleksei Navalny was barred from running in next year's presidential election, the Kremlin felt the need to warn him not to agitate for a boycott speaks volumes.

Because while keeping Navalny's name off the ballot in March is easy, keeping him out of the campaign is another matter entirely.

One way or another, either in the real world or online, Navalny will be campaigning.

He'll be campaigning for a boycott or he'll be campaigning against the "fake election."

Which puts the Kremlin in a bit of a quandary.

Sure, they can lock Navalny up again or place him under house arrest. But doing so would turn him into The Story. It would allow the anticorruption crusader to steal the spotlight at a time when the Kremlin wants Putin's campaign to be at the center of everybody's attention.

Alternatively, the Kremlin could simply try to ignore Navalny or hinder him with petty harassment.

But this would effectively give him free rein to troll the Kremlin's big show and ruin its ritual.

How Vladimir Putin's regime handles this will be one of the big questions going forward.

IN THE NEWS

The All-Russia Popular Front, an action group consisting of politicians, celebrities, and other well-known Russians, has officially nominated Vladimir Putin as an independent candidate in next year's presidential election.

The Kremlin has rejected concerns that Moscow's decision to bar opposition leader Aleksei Navalny from running against President Vladimir Putin undermines the legitimacy of Russia's presidential election.

Media reports say Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have sent all captured Ukrainian soldiers to the location of a major prisoner exchange that is due to take place with Kyiv later today.

Russia on December 26 launched a rocket carrying Angola's first telecom satellite from the Baikonur space center with the rare use of a rocket from Ukraine, despite collapsed ties between the two nations.

Many foreign investors appear to be using the last days of 2017 to pull money out of Russia amid concern that new U.S. sanctions next year may target Russian oligarchs and state corporations that are close to the Kremlin, media reported on December 26.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he is "united in opinion" with his U.S. counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on the issue of North Korea but that they differ on how to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Russia's telecommunications watchdog has demanded an explanation from social-media networks Facebook and Instagram for their disabling of accounts belonging to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Russia has started establishing a permanent presence at its two military bases in Syria -- the Russian naval facility in Tartus and the Russian-run Khmeimim air base near the city of Latakia.

The United Kingdom's Royal Navy says it has escorted a Russian warship through the North Sea near British territorial waters.

Authorities in Moscow say nine people remained hospitalized early on December 26, a day after a commuter bus careened off a road and plunged down steps into a crowded underground walkway in the Russian capital.

Russian authorities say the former owner of a candy factory in Moscow fatally shot a security guard at the plant and injured three people.

Mikheil Saakashvili, the leader of Ukraine's Movement of New Forces party and former president of Georgia, has reportedly refused to appear for questioning at the Main Directorate of the Security Service of Ukraine, despite being summoned for an appearance there on December 26.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the last Power Vertical Podcast of 2017, The Secret Policeman's Ball, featured Mark Galeotti and Andrei Soldatov and looked at the role of Russia's security services going forward as the Kremlin marked the centenary of the founding of the Cheka.

WHAT I'M READING

The Year Minsk-2 Died

In Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at the state of the Minsk cease-fire, which she dubs "the main geopolitical victim" of 2017.

Kashin On The 2018 Election

Opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin has a couple of good columns in Republic.ru previewing the March 18 presidential election.

In one (written before the Central Election Commission barred Aleksei Navalny from running for president), he argues that by keeping Navalny off the ballot the Kremlin is effectively turning the election into a "referendum on mistrust" in the opposition leader.

In another column, Kashin assesses Navalny's call for an election boycott and explains why it is likely to fail.

Russia And The West In 2018

In a piece for RBK, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks ahead to the prospects for relations between Russia and the West in 2018.

The New 'Cold War'

In a piece for Politico, Susan Glasser argues that the Cold War is back, but only one side is fighting.

The New Emigration Wave

The BBC Russian Service has a piece looking at the new wave of Russian activists fleeing Putin's Russia for Europe. The piece focuses on one emigrant who is having trouble adjusting to European norms in The Netherlands.

Hacking And Biometric Data

According to a report in BuzzFeed, FBI software for analyzing fingerprints has Russian-made code, raising fears that Americans' biometric data could be at risk.

Gizmodo also has a report following up on the BuzzFeed report.

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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