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The Morning Vertical, June 1, 2016


Russian trolls can be destructive in many ways. They undermine reasonable discourse. They pollute social media with lies, propaganda, and hate speech. They harass talented and honest journalists like Finland's Jessikka Aro -- who endured a campaign of character assassination for her reporting. And, if my suspicions are correct, an orchestrated campaign by them can get feeds like the popular and hilarious parody DarthPutinKGB suspended by Twitter. And in dealing with them, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Engage them and you play their game. Ignore them, and you risk allowing them to dominate the conversation and set the agenda. The fact that Vladimir Putin's regime has unleashed this poisonous phenomenon on journalists, academics, and others dealing with Russia speaks volumes about the nature of his regime.


Russian media, citing unidentified law-enforcement sources, say the mayor of Vladivostok has been detained and his office searched. The reports have not been confirmed.

Ukraine has proposed that Kyiv and the United States jointly develop and produce a rocket engine to replace Russian rocket engines currently used to launch U.S. military satellites.

Russia says it won't attend a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel this week and no longer is seeking a freeze in global output.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance's defense spending will rise for the first time in a decade.


On the latest Power Vertical blog post, I offer a eulogy and a tribute to the popular Twitter feed DarthPutinKGB, which was suspended yesterday.


Economists and Terrorists

LifeNews, a media outfit with well-known ties to the Russian security services, has published a story accusing former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin and other Moscow liberals of consorting with Islamic extremists.

The article appeared just a day after Kudrin called on Vladimir Putin to dial down geopolitical tensions with the West in order to revive the economy.

The Kremlin's Anti-Terrorist Fail

Writing in Foreign Policy, journalist Oliver Carroll looks at how Moscow's efforts to crack down on Islamists in Daghestan might be making the situation worse.

Attacks On Regime Critics

Opposition State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov has claimed that people voicing dissenting views are being harassed and attacked in St. Petersburg. Gudkov made his allegation on Facebook.

The Death of Humor

Twitter's suspension of the popular parody site DarthPutinKGB is getting more media attention. Politico and BuzzFeed weigh in.

Sanctions Countdown

In his column for Bloomberg View, Leonid Bershidsky argues that Western resolve to maintain sanctions appears to be weakening.

"Both the Kremlin and influential European figures are looking for ways to start defusing the stand-off without losing face," Bershidsky writes. "While the sanctions will almost certainly be extended -- no country wants to rebel on this matter while other more serious matters, such as the refugee crisis and Britain's EU referendum, are on the agenda for the bloc -- a weakening of the restrictions appears set to begin in the coming months."

Putin's Friends

What are the six countries that have recognized Russia's forceful annexation of Crimea?

"Since Russia's illegal seizure and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine on March 18, 2014, six countries have come out in support of Moscow. And in any other circumstance, the support Russia has received would be enough to make politicians blush."

Be Careful What You Like

AP has a rundown on the Russians imprisoned for social media likes and reposts.

Hard Times

Russian economist Sergei Guriev, who served as an adviser to former President Dmitry Medvedev and is currently living in exile in Paris, has written an op-ed claiming that Russia's hard economic times are far from over.

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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