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ON MY MIND

The two most visible opposition figures are trading insults.

The country's most reputable pollster has been muzzled.

The biggest debate appears to be not about whom to vote for, but whether to vote at all.

And the authorities are enticing young people to come to the polls by offering a chance to win a free iPhone.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we look at the increasingly odd dynamics of Russia's presidential election.

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.

So be sure to tune in later today!

IN THE NEWS

Russia's Constitutional Court has refused to review a complaint from opposition leader and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny about election laws used by authorities to ban his candidacy in Russia's March presidential vote.

Supporters of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny say their members have been harassed by police with some offices searched and leaflets calling for a boycott of Russia's upcoming election seized.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is demanding that the United States stop the leak of confidential diplomatic information after a media report this week provided details of what it said were "suspicious" Russian embassy bank transfers.

At the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that, if the Iran nuclear agreement with world powers fails, it would send an "alarming" message to the international community.

The Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has lashed out at human rights groups and rejected claims that an activist jailed on a drug charge is the victim of a fabricated allegation.

A teenage student at a school in southeastern Siberia has attacked a group of younger students with an ax, injuring at least six other people before trying to kill himself.

The Court of Arbitration of Sport will begin appeals hearings on January 22 for 39 Russian athletes banned for life from the Olympics because of alleged doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Ukraine's parliament has passed a bill that backers, including President Petro Poroshenko, say will help Kyiv restore control over areas in the east that are held by Russia-backed separatists.

The leftist front-runner in Mexico's presidential election is making light of allegations by his opponents and a top U.S. official that his campaign may have backing from the Kremlin.

WHAT I'M READING

Waiting For The Kremlin List

In Republic.ru, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at how the Russian elite is preparing for the U.S. Treasury Department's publication of a list of Russia's most politically influential oligarchs who could be subject to sanctions.

And in Vice, Greg Walters looks at the lobbying campaign Russian oligarchs are launching in Washington to avoid being included on the list.

Reviving Containment

In Foreign Affairs, Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon argue that it is time to revive the policy of containment.

An Empire Or A Nation?

In Republic.ru, political scientist Emil Pain explains that while Russia is no longer an empire it is not yet a nation-state.

A Satisfied Power?

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia, has a piece in BNEIntellinews explaining why Russia is increasingly pleased with its role in the world.

The Case For Boycotting RT

Edward Lucas, senior vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis and author of the book The New Cold War, has a piece making the case why reputable Western experts should shun RT.

Putin's 'Special Genes'

Novaya Gazeta has a short piece on a film about the siege of Leningrad called "Blockade blood. Genetics," that was screened in Moscow yesterday. The film argues that descendants of survivors of the blockade -- among them Vladimir Putin -- inherited special genes.

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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