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The Morning Vertical, July 20, 2016


So Russia's draconian "antiterrorism" legislation is scheduled to go into effect today. But we are now learning that the country will simply be unable to implement key parts of the legislation. As I note in the news roundup below, lawmaker Anton Belyakov says there is not enough storage space for all Russian telecoms and ISPs to store all messages and e-mails for six months. And Russia's postal service says it lacks the funds to inspect parcels as required by the law.

But the thing is, it doesn't really matter. The main effect of the law -- which among other things, increases the penalties for "extremism," criminalizes incitement and justifying "terrorism" on line, and reduces the age of criminal liability for some crimes to 14 -- is supposed to be psychological. Vladimir Putin's sprawling police and security apparatus can't possibly monitor all online activity -- but it can monitor enough. Enforcement will be random and arbitrary -- but that should be enough to scare almost everybody.

And that's the point.


Prominent Belarusian-born journalist Pavel Sheremet was killed today when the car he was driving exploded in Kyiv.

Russia's controversial "antiterrorism" law goes into effect today, but one Federation Council deputy is calling for a delay in implementing part of the legislation. Anton Belyakov says Russia does not have the storage capacity for Internet Service Providers to store the content of messages for six months.

Meanwhile, the Russian postal service says it lacks the funds to implement its requirements to inspect parcels under the legislation.

Ukraine said seven government soldiers have been killed in 24 hours in clashes with pro-Russia separatists in the country's east, making July the deadliest month for the Ukrainian military in nearly a year.

The FSB has opened a criminal probe into officials with Russia's Investigative Committee over allegations that they received bribes from a crime syndicate and committed other official misconduct.

A State Duma deputy has called for the game Pokemon Go to be banned in Russia.

Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh, who has been arrested on corruption charges widely seen as political, has ended his hunger strike, according to his attorney.


Putin And Erdogan

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky takes a look at the lessons Turkey's failed coup hold for Putin.

"The projection of the Turkish events onto Russia is only natural," Bershidsky writes.

Like Erdogan, Putin has appealed to Russians' conservative, non-European values. Like Erdogan, he has consolidated personal power over a long rule unconstrained by constitutional term limits. Like Erdogan, he has moved to suppress the freedoms of speech and assembly and initiated tough "antiterrorism" laws that make it hard to oppose him. And like Erdogan, he has struck at nonprofit organizations as "foreign agents" working against his regime. Besides, Russia, like Turkey, is a country where military and palace coups have taken place in recent memory."

There Goes The Neighborhood has a new report -- A European Dream Deferred -- on the impact of Brexit on the EU's Eastern Partnership.

"As difficult to accept as the United Kingdom's recent vote to leave the European Union is for many people around the world, for some citizens of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, it is just baffling," according to the report.

"For Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, the stakes of a Brexit are high. Already, politicians from all three countries are expressing concerns that the move will distract the European Union from the problems in Ukraine and Georgia -- and from Russia's military presence there."

Meanwhile, Giorgi Badridze, Georgia's former ambassador in London, has a piece on the winners and losers of Brexit as seen from Tbilisi.

The Far Right And The Third Rome

Casey Michel has a piece up on on how some far-right groups in the United States are forging ties with the Kremlin.

Why Are Ukraine's Leaders Always Unpopular?

In a piece on The Atlantic Council's website, economist Mykhailo Kukhar and political analyst Alexei Sobchenko explain: "How to Avoid Becoming Ukraine’s Most Unpopular Politician." The piece looks at the respective rise and fall of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

"The higher the expectations associated with a new leader, the more painful his or her downfall," Kukhar and Sobchenko write.

"A classic example is the case of President Viktor Yushchenko, who was the symbol of the Orange Revolution. In December 2004, he took 52 percent of the vote in the third round of the presidential election; by 2012, his party barely managed to capture 1 percent. Recently, Yushchenko’s pattern was repeated by former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who came to power on the wave of the Revolution of Dignity, and together with President Petro Poroshenko gathered more than 40 percent of the votes in the 2014 parliamentary elections. A year later, Yatsenyuk’s 1.2 percent popularity rating led him to seriously compete with Yushchenko for the title of Most Unpopular Ukrainian Politician."

Making Peace And Waging War

There are a couple of good pieces up on the Kennan Institute's blog, The Russia File, parsing Moscow's current approach to the West.

Jill Dougherty has a post titled War Fever in which the former CNN correspondent and Kennan Institute scholar writes: "In the past two months, I’ve traveled to the Baltic region, to Georgia, and to Russia. Talk of war is everywhere."

Meanwhile, Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow at the Kennan Institute, writes that Russia is attempting to make "peace with the West, country by country."

"Russia is economically weak and there is no sign of any new sources of growth emerging. Russia is militarily weak in relation to NATO and there is no way this disparity will be bridged any time soon. But Russia has clear strengths on each of the bilateral vectors it emphasizes," Trudolyubov writes.

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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