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ON MY MIND

Montenegro has joined France and Germany on the growing list of countries who were once favorably disposed toward Russia but who have been turned into foes by Vladimir Putin's Kremlin.

Just days before the country is due to formally join NATO, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, parliament speaker Ivan Brajovic, and scores of other officials have been banned from entering Russia.

Earlier this week, Montenegrin lawmaker Miodrag Vukovic was detained while attempting to change planes at Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport en route to Belarus.

The bans were ostensibly retaliation for Montenegro joining Western sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea. But the symbolism of the timing, on the eve of Montenegro's accession to NATO, was impossible to miss.

They also come in the aftermath of an alleged coup plot in October, that Montenegrin authorities say was orchestrated by Russia.

Montenegro is another case where the Kremlin badly miscalculated a European country's motivations. Moscow assumed that close business ties would keep Podgorica in its corner. And if that didn't work, intimidation would.

IN THE NEWS

A Moscow court has ruled in favor of Kremlin-connected oligarch Alisher Usmanov in his defamation lawsuit against opposition politician and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny.

Unknown assailants have attacked the landlord of Navalny's election campaign headquarters in Irkutsk, Navalny's staff coordinator in the Siberian city says.

Russia's interference in Ukraine is just one sign of a broad attempt to destabilize democracies around the world, U.S. Senator Cory Booker has told RFE/RL.

President Vladimir Putin is meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Russia hosts the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Hillary Clinton has said that she believes U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign gave guidance to the Russian government in its efforts to influence last year's election.

A Stockholm arbitration court has sided with Ukraine in three preliminary rulings in a long-running dispute between Moscow and Kyiv over natural gas.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic has said that the Kremlin has a secret list of Montenegrin officials who are banned from entering Russia due to the small Balkan nation's participation in Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Two leading politicians in Montenegro have fallen victim to Russian pranksters who posed as the president and prime minister of Ukraine in telephone calls last week, officials in the Balkan country say.

Moscow has ordered five Moldovan and two Estonian diplomats to leave Russia following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the two countries.

Amnesty International says it plans to hand out petitions against the abuse of gay men in Chechnya to Russian embassies around the world on June 2.

Russia has lifted some of the sanctions it imposed on Turkey after a Turkish military jet shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border in November 2015.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is heading to St. Petersburg to address an economic conference and meet with the Russian president and foreign minister.

WHAT I'M READING

NATO's Image

The Pew Research Center has released a new poll showing that NATO's image is improving on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Uniter of Ukraine

Peter Dickinson, publisher of the magazines Business Ukraine and Lviv Today, has a piece on the Atlantic Council website: How Putin Unintentionally United Ukraine.

Belarus's New Nuke Plant

Sijbren de Jong of The Hague Center for Strategic Studies has a piece in the EUObserver about the problems and dangers associated with Belarus's planned new nuclear power plant in Astravets

The EU And Belarus

Paul Hansbury, a doctoral candidate at St. Antony's College at Oxford University, has a piece on E-International Relations: Toward a New European Union Strategy For Belarus

Russia And The Threat Of Democracy

Naphtali Rivkin of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has a piece in New Eastern Europe on "Russia's thorny relationship with democracy."

Usmanov Vs. Navalny

In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin weighs in on the verdict in Alisher Usmanov's defamation suit against Aleksei Navalny.

Hijacking History

Euromaidan Press looks at "how Moscow hijacked the history of Kyivan Rus."

The U.S. And The South Caucasus

The Carnegie Center for International Peace has a new report -- authored by Eugene Rumer, Richard Sokolsky, and Paul Stronski -- on U.S. policy in the South Caucasus.

Lessons From Finland

Kati Pohjanpalo has a piece in Bloomberg on how "Finland can teach the world how to stand up to 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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