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ON MY MIND

The Pew Research Center's new poll of Russians (featured in yesterday's Morning Vertical) includes some numbers that should cause Vladimir Putin some sleepless nights.

Support for the Kremlin leader's management of the economy and energy policy has slipped by 15 percentage points since 2015. Putin has also lost 13 percentage points of support for his handling of corruption.

Putin is also losing altitude in his handling of foreign affairs.

Support for his handling of Ukraine has dropped 20 percentage points since 2015. Support for his handling of the EU is down 15 percentage points over the same time period. And support for his handling relations with the United States and China are both down 12 percentage points.

Granted, Putin still has majority support on all these issues, save corruption (where he has 49 percent support). But the trend lines must be troubling six months before an election.

So is Putin just coming down from what was a very high baseline in 2015? Or are these numbers harbingers of a more dangerous trend for the regime?

Stay tuned.

IN THE NEWS

Jurors are deliberating in the Moscow trial of five men from the Russian North Caucasus republic of Chechnya who are charged in connection with the 2015 killing of former Deputy Prime Minister and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

A U.S. official said Russian government-linked hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 U.S. states during the 2016 presidential election campaign, the first time the U.S. government has publicly identified the scope of the Russian effort.

Russia's defense minister claims that the security situation near the western borders has worsened and Russia will beef up its forces there.

The U.S. State Department has expressed "regret" about a Kremlin decision to cancel a meeting between U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

A silver medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Anastasia Kapachinskaya, and two other Russian athletes have been banned for four years for doping.

The trial of Ilmi Umerov, a Crimean Tatar leader who has criticized Russia's seizure of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine, resumed on June 21.

The trial of Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributor who is fighting what he says is a politically motivated separatism charge on the Russian-controlled peninsula, has been adjourned until July 7.

Ukrainian activist Natalya Kharchenko says she has fled the Russian-annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea, fearing for her safety.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that representatives from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration have agreed to visit Kyiv "in the near future" and will sign "very important" defense agreements.

WHAT I'M READING

Remembering Viktor Tsoi

Meduza has a series of pieces remembering Viktor Tsoi, legendary front man of the groundbreaking Soviet-era rock band Kino, who would have turned 55 this week, on June 21.

Meduza also has a story looking at how the Kino song Peremen (Change) became the protest anthem of the perestroika era, despite the fact that Tsoi didn't intend it to be a protest song.

Back in 2015, on the 25th anniversary of Tsoi's death, I wrote this piece, Viktor Tsoi And The Russia That Never Was, on The Power Vertical blog. I think it is just as relevant on the 55th anniversary of his birth.

NATO And The EU

Julia Himmrich and Denitsa Raynova of the European Leadership Network follow up on an earlier report and take a look at how EU member states can strengthen the EU-NATO relationship.

Russia's Balkan Play

In Politico, Moscow-based journalist Howard Amos looks at the role Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev plays in Russian policy in the Balkans.

And in Balkan Insight, Marcus Tanner argues that Russia's strategic plans are failing in the Balkans.

Russian Views Of Ukraine; Ukrainian Views Of Russia

On The Atlantic Council's website, Taras Kuzio looks at the evolution of Russian and Ukrainian attitudes about each other.

The Banality Of Putin

In The New York Review of Books, Robert Cottrell, a former Moscow bureau chief for The Economist and The Financial Times, parses Oliver Stone's interview with Vladimir Putin.

And the Digital Forensics Research Lab explains how Putin fell for his own fake news.

Navalny And Protest

Moscow-based journalist Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique, has a piece in Raam Op Rusland, arguing that Navalny should stop protesting.

Death By Poisoning

BuzzFeed has published the latest installment of its series on alleged Russian assassinations in the U.K. focusing on the use of poison.

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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