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The Morning Vertical, January 17, 2018


When Ksenia Sobchak first announced her intention to run for president, I argued in this space that the dynamic between her and Aleksei Navalny was crucial.

If they cooperated with each other, they stood a good chance of spoiling the Kremlin's big show and tainting Vladimir Putin's legitimization ritual. If they operated at cross purposes, they would play right into the hands of the Putin regime.

For the time being, they appear to be doing the latter.

The underlying argument between the two over the utility of an election boycott is an legitimate one -- and one that much of the Russian opposition is engaged in.

Whether it makes sense for anti-Putin forces to boycott the election, as Navalny is arguing, or whether it would be more effective to send a message to the regime (and society) by voting for Sobchak as an "against all" candidate is still an open question.

(In a piece featured below, Dmitry Oreshkin took an interesting look at the mathematics of a boycott that is well worth a read.)

But what is clear now is that, if the Kremlin had a master plan in facilitating Sobchak's candidacy, it appears to be working (regardless of either her or Navalny's intentions).


A senior Russian Orthodox Church official is calling for Russia to return back to its traditional Julian calendar, which was used until February 1918.

A Russian Orthodox priest has been convicted on child molestation charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Memorial says its office in Ingushetia has been torched in what a senior member of the Russian human rights group called a "terrorist" attack.

U.S. President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon has refused to comply with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions from a congressional committee investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has joined Russia, Syria, and Turkey in opposing a new 30,000-strong border guard force inside Syria that the United States says is needed to keep Islamic State extremists out of the country.

Kremlin economic aide Andrei Belousov has said that the Russian government is considering a possible boost in social spending, as President Vladimir Putin steps up his campaign for the March presidential election.

Viktor Anpilov, a communist politician who was an ardent opponent of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, has died at the age of 72 after suffering a stroke.

A man who lit himself on fire to protest being fired from his job with Gazprom's subsidiary in the Russian region of Bashkortostan has died.

Ukraine's central bank says an investigation into the country's largest lender, PrivatBank, shows that it had been "subjected to a large-scale and coordinated fraud" over at least a decade.


The Mathematics Of An Electoral Boycott

In, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin crunches the numbers and looks at the utility of an election boycott by Putin's foes.

Russian Oil Deals In Iraq

Russian Middle East expert Sergei Balmasov has a piece in Intersection magazine on how Rosneft’s contracts with Iraqi authorities in Baghdad -- and an investment deal with authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan -- are both in jeopardy. (the piece is available in both Russian and English.)

Russian Pride

Also in Intersection magazine, the Levada Center's Denis Volkov explains Russian national pride. (The piece is available in both Russian and English.)

The Steele Dossier One Year On

In The New Yorker, John Cassidy looks at the Trump-Russia dossier one year after it was published.

Why Putin Needs A Landslide

In an op-ed for Vedomosti, Aleksandr Rubtsov explains why Putin needs to win the March 18 election by a landslide.

Sweden Braces For War?

The Financial Times has a piece on the civil defense brochure that is being sent to 4.7 million homes in Sweden informing them what they should do in the event of war.

Theater Of The Absurd

In an op-ed for The Moscow Times, journalist and culturologist Yury Saprykin looks at the "theater of the absurd" in the prosecution of theater director Kirill Serebrennikov.

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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