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ON MY MIND

It has been banned in Russia.

It's been called an "insulting mockery" of the Soviet past.

Police even raided a Moscow cinema that dared to screen it.

It, of course, is Scottish director Armando Iannucci's black comedy The Death Of Stalin, which lampoons the power struggles, intrigue, and backstabbing that followed the Soviet dictator's demise in 1953.

What does Russia's official reaction to this highly acclaimed film tell us?

Is it simply about Russians' sensitivity about the darkest chapters of their history?

Or is it something more?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll take a look at the Kremlin's sacred cows and what the scandal over this and other films tell us about Russia today.

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; and Anna Arutunyan, a Moscow-based senior analyst on Russia for the International Crisis Group and author of the book The Putin Mystique: Inside Russia's Power Cult.

So be sure to tune in later today!

IN THE NEWS

Vladimir Putin is expected to attend ceremonies in the city formerly known as Stalingrad as it marks the 75th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles in World War II.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned countries of the Western Hemisphere to beware of “alarming” actions by Russia and China in their region, urging them to work with the United States instead.

The U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has issued a harshly worded statement accusing Russia of "ongoing violations of international law" in Ukraine.

Moscow is talking tough after being reprimanded by the United States over an "unsafe" incident in which a Russian military jet flew within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the Black Sea.

A Moscow court has sentenced former Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh to eight years in prison following his conviction on bribery charges.

Russian law enforcement authorities say they have killed a suspected Islamic militant who they suggested may have been plotting an attack on the day of the presidential election next month.

The world's top sports court has overturned lifetime Olympic bans for 39 Russian athletes in a blow to the International Olympic Committee's policy following the Russian sports-doping scandal.

The editor in chief of a Ukrainian news site derided by critics as overly friendly toward Russia says he has fled the country and appealed for political asylum in Austria, citing threats of physical violence and "unprecedented pressure from the authorities," including President Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he is "deeply concerned" by a Polish bill that accuses some Ukrainians of collaborating with Nazi Germany, calling it "categorically unacceptable."

WHAT I'M READING

Reactions To Belykh Verdict

Political commentator Zoya Svetova looks at the politically charged conviction of former Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh and cases against other regional leaders and makes the argument that loyalty to the regime is no longer sufficient to protect the security of Russian officials.

In Republic.ru, Vladimir Pastukhov also reacts to the Belykh verdict and notes how -- in conjunction with the prosecutions of other officials -- it is a reflection of the increasingly arbitrary nature of repression under Putin.

Putin's Listed Friends

In Novoye Vremya-The New Times, Yelena Artemeva zeroes in on four "friends of Putin" whose names appeared on the U.S. Treasury Department's "Kremlin list."

The Sanctity Of Power

Fyodor Krasheninnikov has a piece in Novoye Vremya-The New Times looking at the controversy over the film The Death Of Stalin, arguing that it reflects a view in Russia that power is sacred.

Living With Repression

In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin reflects on strategies to live with oppression.

Putin's Stalling Strategy In Syria

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that Putin is hoping to drag out peace talks on Syria to buy time to build up a long-term military presence.

The EIU's Democracy Index

The Economist has published a useful infographic derived from the latest installment of The Economist Intelligence Unit's 2017 Democracy Index.

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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