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The Morning Vertical, July 28, 2016


To put it mildly, Vladimir Putin's regime doesn't like progressive ideas that emanate from Ukraine's civil society. And it certainly doesn't like it when those ideas spread to Russia. The Kremlin famously called Euromaidan, a genuine middle class uprising that overthrew a corrupt autocrat, a coup by a fascist junta.

And now Putin's gang is at it again. The online #IAmNotAfraidToSay movement, started by Ukrainian social activist Anastasia Melnychenko to raise awareness of sexual violence, took off in both Ukraine and Russia. It sparked an much-needed discussion of this important issue that has been neglected in both countries. It broke taboos and empowered women who until now had been intimidated or shamed into silence.

So how has the Kremlin responded? With a bill to decriminalize domestic violence. And with a warning from Kremlin officials that women who use excessive force in resisting rape attempts could face criminal charges.

Speaks volumes.

I discuss the #IAmNotAfraidToSay campaign and Russia's response to it on today's Daily Vertical, which is featured below.


Andrei Belyaninov, the head of the Russian Customs Service, has been fired according to a decree posted on the Russian government's official website.

The Kremlin has denied allegations that Moscow hacked U.S. Democratic Party e-mails, saying Russia never interfered in other countries' election campaigns.

Russia has announced that more than 250 athletes have been cleared to compete in the Rio Olympics next month even as President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia's some 100 doping-related suspensions amounted to "discrimination."

Three Russian Olympic medalists are among 11 weightlifters, mostly from ex-Soviet states, who tested positive for banned drugs in retests of samples from the 2012 London Games.

The Russian lawmaker responsible for the country's notorious "gay propaganda" law has proposed new legislation that would decriminalize domestic violence.

A Russian Civic Chamber official has warned women against "exceeding the limits of self-defense" when fighting off rapists.

The Lebanese newspaper Al Joumhouria is reporting that Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad secretly visited Moscow.

The Kremlin has announced that it will no longer release Vladimir Putin's schedule in advance.

A museum honoring slain human rights activist and State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova in her native St. Petersburg has been burglarized.


Putin's Men

Mikhail Zygar, former editor in chief of Dozhd TV and author of the book All The Kremlin's Men, has a piece in Politico looking at the kind of foreign leaders Vladimir Putin seeks to cultivate.

"From the very beginning of his presidency, Putin has bet on personal relationships with world leaders as the basis for his foreign policy. It is almost as if he has tried to recruit all of them, trying to find each one’s personal key," Zygar writes.

"He realized very quickly that all foreign leaders can be divided up into two important categories: those who believe in certain values (usually, democratic ones) and those who are totally cynical, concerned with self-advancement and power for its own sake. Sooner or later, attempts to build a relationship with leaders of the first category run aground on the rocks of mutual incomprehension. With leaders of the latter category, everything is on the table."

Europe's Success In Ukraine

Andrew Moravcsik has a new report out for the German Marshall Fund on "why a Europe-led geo-economic strategy is succeeding" in Ukraine."

"Over the past three years, the United States, Europe, and other Western allies have been unexpectedly successful at maintaining a unified, coherent, and effective policy to block Russian assertiveness," Moravcsik writes.

"The West can sustain this success by heeding three policy lessons drawn from it. First, the major Russian threats in the region are economic and political, not military...Second, Western policy should continue to rely on non-military policy instruments aimed not at Russia, but at supporting third countries like Ukraine, as its successful policy has so far….Third, the 'indispensable' power in this effort remains Europe, led by Germany."

A Deadly Month For Journalists

Melinda Haring, editor of the UkraineAlert at the Atlantic Council, has a piece about the recent spate of attacks on journalists in Ukraine.

Power Is Relative

Writing in Vox, Ali Wyne, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and a security fellow with the Truman National Security Project, assesses the relative strength of the United States, China, and Russia.

The Return Of Geopolitics

Charles Clover, author of the book White Wind, Black Snow: The Rise of Russia's New Nationalism, has a piece in Foreign Policy on "the unlikely origins of Russia's Manifest Destiny."

The Resurgent FSB

RBK has an interesting piece profiling FSB General Sergei Korelyov, who has spearheaded the recent high-profile cases targeting regional governors as well as officials in the Investigative Committee and Federal Customs Service.

The Russia Card

Writing on his blog, Maxim Trudolyubov looks at how Russia has returned as an issue in U.S. politics.


Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal weighs in with an editorial on the Russian doping scandal.

Olympic Lawsuits?

The Guardian reports that some sports federations fear lawsuits for banning Russian athletes from the Summer Olympics in Rio.

Soviet Nostalgia

The latest installment of the SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at Soviet nostalgia in the Caucasus. Sean's guest is Maxim Edwards, commissioning editor at Open Democracy Russia.

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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