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The Morning Vertical, June 20, 2016


The official reaction to Russia's track-and-field athletes effectively being banned from this year's Summer Olympics is both predictable and telling. Despite the overwhelming evidence of systematic state-sponsored doping and despite reports that armed Russian security agents prevented international doping officials from testing athletes, the whole thing is being presented as part of an ongoing Western campaign to undermine Russia. The ban means, like the 1980 and 1984 summer games in Moscow and Los Angeles respectively, this year's Olympics in Rio will effectively have an asterisk. And as a result, the whole world loses due to the nonparticipation of Russian athletes. And the reason is because the Kremlin decided to flagrantly break the rules. But never mind. The Putin regime is using the whole affair to play the victim and stir up more anti-Western sentiment.


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said the European Union should phase out sanctions against Russia.

Steinmeier has also criticized NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe, calling them "warmongering."

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has also called for a phasing out of sanctions and for the EU to improve relations with Russia.

Russian investigators have opened a criminal probe into the former director of the country's anti-doping laboratory, after he publicly detailed a vast state-sponsored system to help Russian athletes improve their performance.

Vladimir Putin is due to visit China this week.

Leaders of the world's Orthodox Christian churches have gathered for the first time in more than 1,200 years despite a boycott by the Russian church and three others.

Russian officials said 14 people died after boats traveling on a lake in northern Russia capsized. Most of those dead were teenagers attending a summer camp.


On today's Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss the fallout from Russia's track-and-field athletes' effective ban from the 2016 Summer Olympics with Pavel Butorin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time.


And in case you missed it, here is the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Baltic Memory and Russian Denial, on the 75th anniversary of the June 1941 Baltic deportations.


Russia's Referendum Shenanigans

In advance of the Brexit vote this week, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has a piece looking at how Russian influence undermines public trust in referendums.

Sports, Hooligans, And War

The Guardian has a piece about how authorities in Great Britain suspect links between the football hooligans who attacked British fans in France and the Kremlin.

"Senior government officials fear the violence unleashed by Russian hooligans at Euro 2016 was sanctioned by the Kremlin and are investigating links with Vladimir Putin’s regime," the author, Daniel Boffey, writes.

"It is understood that a significant number of those involved in savage and highly coordinated attacks on England fans and others in Marseille and Lille have been identified as being in the 'uniformed services' in Russia. The theory is that the sanctioning of hooliganism by Putin is a continuation of what has been described as Russia’s campaign of 'hybrid warfare.'"

Meanwhile, a petition to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia to Poland and Ukraine has been launched on

Putin and the European Left

Much has been written about the Kremlin's links to the European far right. Now Open Democracy has a piece examining the Putin regime's courtship of Europe's far left.

Hitler's Ghost

Military analyst Michael Peck has a piece in The National Interest on how Hitler made Russia a superpower.

"What would Russia look like today if World War II had never happened? What if Hitler had remained a failed painter in Vienna, or had been blown up by an assassin’s bomb in a Munich beer hall?" Peck writes.

Graphic Novels

Olena Goncharova reviews "The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks," a graphic novel depicting the Holodomor and the life of slain investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

"I expected a graphic novel to fall short when it came to telling the grim history of Holodomor, a government-orchestrated famine that ravaged Ukraine in the winter and spring of 1932-33. Neither did I think the assassination of prominent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya could be depicted so poignantly in comic book panels.

I was wrong," Goncharova writes.

Russia's Elderly Hostage

Euromaidan press takes a look at the case of Yuriy Soloshenko, the 74-year-old Ukrainian man who spent two years in a Russian prison on trumped-up espionage charges before being released earlier this month.

Moscow's Gilded Youth

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal has a piece by Ilya Klishin that looks at the antics of Russia's rich youths, focusing on the case of Ruslan Shamsuarov, the son of the president of Lukoil, who was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase through Moscow.

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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