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The Morning Vertical, June 16, 2017


The choreographed televised spectacle versus the defiance of the street.

The master of the universe versus the maverick revolutionary.

Vladimir Putin versus Aleksei Navalny.

Welcome to the battle for Russia's future.

Putin is saying he's making Russia great again.

And Navalny is saying we can do much better than this.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we look back at the optics of this past week, which appear to be a microcosm of the battle ahead. It will be a test of wills, a contest of images, and a competition of narratives.

Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the blog In Moscow's Shadows; and Moscow-based journalist and playwright Natalia Antonova, an editor at OpenDemocracy-Russia.

Also on the Podcast, Mark, Natalia, and I will discuss Russia's youth rebellion and the teenagers who are taking on the Kremlin.

It should be a good show, so be sure to tune in later today!


The Russian Defense Ministry says the leader of the extremist group Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have been killed in a Russian air strike in Syria late last month.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer to oversee his response to inquiries into possible collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved legislation that included tougher new sanctions against Russia and Iran, making it more difficult for President Donald Trump to ease existing restrictions without congressional approval.

The U.S. Senate also voted to allow the U.S. space agency NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines in an amendment to legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia.

Two Russian opposition figures from Aleksei Navalny's party asked for political asylum at the Ukrainian border on June 15, Ukraine's Border Guard Service said.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says Russia is "each and every day" undermining the credibility of the U.S. commitment to NATO and its ability to respond to the alliance.

Russia has accused the U.S.-led coalition of deploying missiles against Syrian government troops at a base in the east of the country where rebels fighting the Islamic State group are being trained.

Supporters of Akhtem Chiygoz, the head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis who has been held by Russian authorities since January 2015, say a Russian court in the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea has rejected a request that Chiygoz be allowed to see his mother, who is reportedly dying of cancer.

Authorities in Russia's Chechnya region say they have dropped charges against a man who was handed over by Belarus, despite warnings that he could be tortured or killed in Chechnya.

Russian political activist Ildar Dadin has been fined after reading aloud from the Russian Constitution on Moscow's Red Square outside the Kremlin.

Russian media reports say prominent actor Aleksei Batalov, a screen star of the Soviet period known as The Thaw, has died at the age of 88.

The European Union on June 15 agreed to offer Moldova 100 million euros in economic aid provided it steps up anticorruption efforts.


Russia's Showdown With The West

In a piece on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website, Eugene Rumer argues that "the break between Russia and the West is not a passing phase, but a long-term condition that will shape the course of European security for the foreseeable future."

Putin's Secret French Getaway

In Time Magazine, Simon Shuster looks at The Secret French Hideaway Where the Putin Family Spends Its Time and Fortune.

Hybrid War In The 1930s

In a piece for War On The Rocks, Ian Johnson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Clements Center for National Security, looks at Soviet efforts to subvert U.S. democracy in the 1930s.

A Bigger Hack Than Suspected

Bloomberg is reporting that Russia's breach of U.S. electoral systems before last year's election, which hit 39 states, was more widespread than previously believed.

The Plot Against America

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a piece in Tablet -- The 'Trump Dossier,' Or How Russia Helped America Break Itself -- in which he argues that "Getting Trump elected was not Putin’s goal. The Kremlin just wanted to sow discord and delegitimize the United States’ democratic institutions."

Ukraine's Main Enemy

In a piece on The Atlantic Council's website (originally published in Russian in Zerkolo Nedeli), Naftogaz Ukraine's CEO Andriy Kobolyev argues that to win the war with Russia, Ukraine must defeat corruption.

The Children's Rebellion

In The New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen, author of the book The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin, looks at Russia's youthful rebels.

Death In The UK

Buzzfeed has an investigative report, From Russia With Blood, looking at a series of assassinations in the UK that are suspected of being tied to the Kremlin.

NOTE TO READERS: The Morning Vertical and The Daily Vertical will not appear on June 19-20 as I have a speaking engagement in Munich. The normal schedule will resume on Wednesday June 21.

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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