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The Morning Vertical, July 27, 2017

Your daily roundup.


It appears that Vladimir Putin is about to try the oldest trick in the Russian playbook: playing the role of the "good Tsar" against the "bad boyars."

According to a piece by Yekaterina Vinokurova (featured below), Putin plans to mobilize the Russian electorate against local and regional elites and to make the "struggle against poverty and social injustice" the centerpiece of his election campaign.

This indicates that the Kremlin is becoming aware that Russia is not immune to the populist antiestablishment wave that has swept the West in recent years.

Putin is apparently also attempting to co-opt the popular anger against corruption and cronyism that opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has tapped into.

But as Vinokurova notes, the strategy is not without risks. For 17 years, Putin has been concentrating power in a narrow circle and his cronies have been monetizing their positions.

And the populist strategy could backfire if the public turns its anger not only toward local elites, but toward Putin and his entourage as well.


Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit neighboring Finland today on a one-day trip.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has approved an indictment against Russian former Minister of Economic Development Aleksei Ulyukayev and sent the case to court, Russian news agencies reported.

Greek police said on July 26 that they have arrested a Russian man who allegedly masterminded a $4 billion money-laundering scheme using the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress said they had reached an agreement clearing the way for final action on a bill cementing sanctions against Russia into law and barring President Donald Trump from easily waiving those sanctions.

Relatives of Raoul Wallenberg have filed a lawsuit against Russia's Federal Security Service to provide uncensored documentation that could help determine the fate of the former Swedish diplomat and war hero.

The European Union has added four Russian individuals and three Russian entities to its sanctions list after revelations that four gas turbines from the German company Siemens were "illegally" diverted from Russia to Ukraine's occupied Crimean Peninsula, officials in Brussels say.

U.S. senators have questioned Justice Department and FBI officials on the enforcement of a key law regulating lobbying activities by people who work on behalf of foreign governments.

Residents of the Taimyr Peninsula in a remote part of northern Russia are calling for a referendum that would restore the area's former status as an autonomous region.

Aleksei Volkov, the coordinator of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s election staff in the city of Volgograd has been charged with desecrating Russian military symbols.

Dmitry Ishevsky, one of several activists imprisoned following clashes at a protest on the eve of President Vladimir Vladimir Putin's inauguration to his current term has been released after serving a 38-month sentence.

Dozens of would-be homeowners who made down payments a decade ago on apartments that were never completed have started a hunger strike in the Russian city of Novosibirsk.

Ukraine's state power company says it has terminated electricity supplies to the parts of the Donetsk region that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

A Russian blogger who was jailed after traveling to a breakaway region of Azerbaijan has petitioned to be extradited to Israel, his lawyer said.


In my latest Power Vertical blog post, Playing The 'Little Russia' Card, I put the recent calls by Moscow-backed separatists to create a new state called Malorossia into context.


Tatarstan And Russian Nationalists

What are Russian nationalists thinking about Tatarstan as the republic's status agreement with Moscow expires? The website Sputnik i Pogram has a revealing and disturbing piece.

Putin The Populist?

In a piece for Znak, Yekaterina Vinokurova writes that, according to Kremlin sources, Vladimir Putin plans to make the "struggle against poverty and social injustice" the centerpiece of his election campaign next year. Putin, according to the article, plans to mobilize the Russian public against local and regional elites.

Russia's Naval Doctrine

In War On The Rocks, Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist in the Strategic Studies division of the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), looks at Russia's new naval doctrine.

How To Recruit A Spy

Former FBI agent Naveed Jamali has a piece in The Daily Beast on how Russia recruits foreign assets.

How To Bust Sanctions

Max de Haldevang has a piece in Quartz on how the family of sanctioned Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin used UK companies to set up a new life for themselves in London.

The Future Of Nord Stream

In EUObserver, Andrew Rettman looks at the future of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline in the wake of possible new U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Elite Turnover

On the Moscow Carnegie Center's website, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at current trends in turnover in the Russian political elite and projects them forward to 2024.

Goodbye To Finlandization

As Finland celebrates 100 years of independence, the BBC looks at how Helsinki has managed relations with Russia -- and how this is changing.

Stateless Saakashvili

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group weighs in on Kyiv's decision to revoke MIkheil Saakashvili's Ukrainian citizenship.

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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