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The Morning Vertical, February 16, 2018


While we pretty much know what will happen on March 18. But the real suspense is what happens next.

And a big clue about how Vladimir Putin will govern in his fourth term will will be revealed by what he does with the security services after the election.

The Russian media has been filled with speculation and leaks about how the Kremlin leader planning a major shakeup of his siloviki.

So what can we expect? Where is the Russian security state going?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we look at what is reportedly on the table and what it means.

Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, head of its Center for European Security, and author of the forthcoming book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia.

So be sure to tune in later today!


The Russian Foreign Ministry says that five Russians who were not military personnel may have been killed in a clash with U.S.-led forces in Syria last week and claims that reports putting the Russian death toll in the dozens or hundreds were "disinformation."

Internet service providers in Russia began blocking access to opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's website on February 15 following an order from the country's communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, according to news reports and social-media posts by Navalny and others.

The top Russian court in Ukraine's Moscow-controlled Crimea region has sentenced Ukrainian national Andriy Zakhtey to 6 1/2 years in prison on sabotage charges that Kyiv contends are unfounded.

The United States has blamed Russia for the massive NotPetya ransomware attack last year, warning Moscow of "international consequences" for its actions.

Moscow says any new sanctions imposed by the United States would have little effect on its people or economy after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would impose new punitive measures on wealthy Russians "in the near future."

The alleged leader of an armed gang and a member of Russian security forces have been killed in a counterterrorist operation in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region of Daghestan, Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee said on February 15.


In my latest Power Vertical blog post, Putinism With Human Faces, I explore the reasons why Putin's so-called opposites are acting more like surrogates.


Lithuania's Centennial

Lithuania marks 100 years of independence today. In its Charlemagne column, The Economist looks at the the Baltic state's rough century as a sovereign nation.

Why Sobchak Sued Putin

In his column for, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin opines about what is really behind a lawsuit that Ksenia Sobchak filed against Vladimir Putin's candidacy.

Syria Gets Dangerous For Putin

In a piece for Novaya Vremya-The New Times, military analyst Aleksandr Golts weighs in on the reported deaths of Russian mercenaries in Syria.

And in a piece for The Atlantic, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague explains why Putin's Syria gambit is getting increasingly dangerous.

The Limits Of Exporting Revolution

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky makes the case that colored revolutions cannot be exported -- their causes are internal.

Military Cuts

Vedomosti has a report on proposed cuts in Russian defense spending and the effect this will have on the economy.

Lukashenka Criticizes Putin

Rosbalt has a report looking at what might be behind a speech Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka gave to his Security Council, in which he accused Russia of neglecting the defense needs of its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

NOTE TO POWER VERTICALISTAS: I will be travelling for the next few weeks for public appearances in Estonia and Poland -- and a short vacation in the United States. No Power Vertical products will appear from Monday, February 29, through Wednesday, March 14.

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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