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The Morning Vertical, June 13, 2017


Vladimir Putin says he's making Russia great again. And Aleksei Navalny says we can do better than this.

Welcome to the battle for Russia's future.

When Putin goes before the cameras in his annual call-in program later this week, there will no doubt be pithy one-liners, choreographed exchanges with carefully vetted ordinary citizens, and staged surprises designed to grab headlines.

The perennial spectacle will be designed to show a leader who is in command, in control, and restoring Russia pride of place in the world.

The week, of course, began with another spectacle. One in which thousands of antigovernment protesters came out in more than 100 cities across Russia to protest corruption and voice opposition to a regime that they believe has been in power way too long.

It also had its memorable images: teenagers being detained by police in riot gear (who protesters playfully dubbed "spacemen"); protesters jiggling keys in the air in a gesture reminiscent of the 1989 Velvet Revolution; Navalny being arrested as he was leaving his home.

In many ways, the optics of this week are a microcosm of the battle ahead.

Ina piece featured below, Oleg Kashin argues that Navalny has become the only politician in Russia other than Putin who matters. In all likelihood he won't be allowed on the ballot for next year's presidential election.

But it doesn't really matter. Navalny is playing a long game. And the battle between him and Putin has only just begun.


The United States, the European Union, and human rights groups have condemned the detention of an estimated 1,560 peaceful protesters across Russia.

A United Nations report says hostilities have been escalating in eastern Ukraine in recent months because parties to the armed conflict there have "repeatedly failed to implement cease-fire agreements." The report also says the death toll from the conflict has exceeded 10,000.

A close associate of U.S. President Donald Trump has said Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who the Justice Department appointed last month to investigate Russian ties with Trump's campaign.

U.S. senators have announced a bipartisan agreement on legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia over human rights abuses, for arming Syria, and for allegedly meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Hackers believed to be allied with the Russian government have devised a cyberweapon that has the potential to be highly disruptive against the world's electrical systems, researchers have reported.

The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine has requested that the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission in eastern Ukraine and International Committee of the Red Cross help locate Stanislav Aseyev, a blogger missing since June 2.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed a law banning the St. George ribbon, which is seen by many Ukrainians as symbol of Russian aggression.


Protest Aftermath

In his column for, opposition journalist argues that Aleksei Navalny has now become Russia's second-most-important national politician.

Meduza has a photo essay of the mass detentions of protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Amie Ferris-Rotman has an op-ed in The New York Times on "the teenagers standing up to Putin."

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that additional Western sanctions are harming Russia's protest movement.

Notes From The Hybrid War

In Intersection magazine, foreign-affairs analyst Pavel Luzin explains the reasons why Russia has been interfering in Western elections.

In Politico, Ben Schreckinger looks at how Russia is targeting members of the U.S. military with disinformation.

Mark Galeotti has a piece in Foreign Policy looking at how various states -- not least of all Russia -- have weaponized organized crime.

NATO Defense Spending

European Leadership Network has a report on NATO defense spending and what it calls "the irrationality of 2 percent."

Ukraine's Road To Europe -- In Cartoons

Euromaidan Press looks at Ukraine's path to visa-free EU travel in cartoons.

The 'Extremist' Librarian

In The New York Times, Serge Schmemann argues that "there is something particularly Orwellian about accusing a librarian of hate crimes because books under her care don't jibe with government propaganda."

NOTE TO READERS: The Morning Vertical and The Daily Vertical will not appear on June 14-15 because I will be speaking at a conference in Sibiu, Romania.

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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