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The Morning Vertical, December 29, 2017


How will the Kremlin handle Aleksei Navalny trolling the election?

What effect will Ksenia Sobchak's candidacy have and will she and Navalny cooperate?

How will the system handle Vladimir Putin becoming an effective "lame duck" after March?

Will there be "constitutional reform"?

Will sanctions and the economy force a reset of foreign policy?

Looking ahead to 2018, these are my five big Russia questions. And I explore each in a special year-end Power Vertical blog post featured below.

The list, of course, isn't exhaustive. There are others, like what will happen in Ukraine? And is the Minsk-2 cease-fire really dead in the water? (Something Michael Kimmage explores in a piece featured below.)

Happy holidays everybody. And see you next year!


Facebook says it blocked the social-media accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov because the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader had become subject to financial and travel sanctions imposed by the U.S. government.

Russia plans to limit U.S. military reconnaissance flights over Russian territory under the Open Skies Treaty starting January 1 in response to limits on Russian flights over the United States recently announced by Washington, Russian news agencies reported.

Unknown assailants have severely beaten an environmental activist in Russia's southwestern city of Krasnodar.

The Russian space agency says it has regained communications with an Angolan telecommunications satellite launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Vladimir Putin has said a blast that injured at least 10 people at a St. Petersburg supermarket was a terrorist act and urged security forces to "take no prisoners" when dealing with imminent threats from terror-plot suspects.

Putin has also endorsed a plan by Russian airline Aeroflot to charge World Cup fans only 5 rubles (9 cents) for flights between cities where Russia's soccer team is playing.

An official in Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Russia could host talks between the United States and North Korea if Moscow is asked to do so.

A Moscow court has ordered the former co-owner of a Moscow candy factory to remain in jail while the killing of a security guard at the plant is investigated.

Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin has been released from detention in Moscow after being held and fined for staging a demonstration that authorities said was conducted without their permission.

The Kremlin says law enforcement authorities will "no doubt" examine whether opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has broken the law by calling for nationwide protests in support of a boycott of Russia's March 18 presidential election.

Russia's Republic of Kalmykia has marked the 74th anniversary of the start of mass deportations of Kalmyks to Siberia by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Russia's Emergencies Situations Ministry has rejected reports that two people were killed in a Moscow bus crash today, saying that the accident left three people injured.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he believes he will be treated fairly by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he has ordered his government to "immediately" resume talks with Moscow on the release of Ukrainian citizens from Russian custody following a prisoner swap between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists.


In case you missed it, The Power Vertical's year-ender blog looks at The Five Big Russia Questions For 2018.


Promises Made (And Not Made)

Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov has a very thorough and smart piece in on what the West did -- and did not -- promise to Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin about NATO enlargement back in the 1990s.

Lessons Of The Meiji Restoration

Former Russian Foreign Ministry official Andrei Kortunov, director of the Russian Council on International Affairs, has an interesting essay on what Japan's Meiji Restoration can teach contemporary Russia.

A Conversation About 2017 has published a conversation between journalists Oleg Kashin and Yegor Sennikov in which they reflect on the past year and look ahead.

Strelkov's Revealing Interview

Medium takes a look at a revealing interview Igor Girkin, aka "Strelkov" (the former self-styled "defense minister" of the unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic), gave to The Insider.

Navalny's Broadside

Meduza has published a transcript (and video) of Aleksei Navalny's speech to the Central Election Commission and his exchange with its chairwoman, Ella Pamfilova, moments before he was barred him from running for president in 2018.

Russia's Middle East Strategy

Stephen Blank has a piece for the Jamestown Foundation taking a comprehensive look at Russia's strategy in the Middle East.

Is Minsk-2 Really Dead?

In War On The Rocks, former State Department official Michael Kimmage, a professor of history at the Catholic University of America, looks at the state of the beleaguered Minsk-2 cease-fire.

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: Since Russia traditionally gets pretty quiet in the week between New Year's and Orthodox Christmas, The Power Vertical will go dark next week. No Power Vertical products will appear from January 1-5 inclusive. The regular schedule will resume on January 8.

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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