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The Morning Vertical, June 28, 2016


In the run-up to the 2011 State Duma elections, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny effectively branded the ruling United Russia as "the party of swindlers and thieves." This week, police and prosecutors in Spain have shown that the label is probably even more appropriate than anybody suspected.

Six Russian citizens have been detained in the Spanish port city of Tarragona on suspicion of laundering money for Russia's infamous Tambovskaya Gruppirovka, or the Tambov organized crime group. And according to Spanish media reports, the detained are believed to have ties to United Russia. Just another in a long series of data points linking Russia's rulers to the mob.

Not that it will affect United Russia's electoral prospects or anything.


Six Russian citizens have been detained in Spain on suspicion of laundering money for the Tambov organized crime group. Those detained also have ties to Russia's ruling United Russia party.

Miners in Rostov Oblast are threatening to block roads over unpaid wages.

Mobile-phone operators are calling on the Federation Council to reject new "antiterrorist" legislation recently passed by the State Duma.

Russian human rights activist Valentina Cherevatenkois faces criminal charges for allegedly failing to comply with a controversial “foreign agents” law.

Russian harassment and spying on U.S. diplomats in Moscow has increased significantly, an issue that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised recently with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lithuania, concerned about losing a strong defender of Russia sanctions in the European Union, has called for a gradual British exit from the EU that preserves ties with London.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hopes for a "quick" normalization of ties with Russia after he expressed" condolences" to the family of a Russian pilot who died after Turkish forces downed his plane.

But Turkey's prime minister says Ankara will not be paying compensation to Russia.


Restoring NATO

Nicholas Burns, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, and James Jones, a former NATO commander, have released a new report for the Atlantic Council: Restoring The Power And Purpose Of The NATO Alliance.

"As NATO leaders prepare to meet in Warsaw this July, the alliance faces the greatest threat to peace and security in Europe since the end of the Cold War," Burns and Jones write.

"Transatlantic leaders must confront a jarring reality: The peace, security, and democratic stability of Europe can no longer be taken for granted."

Burying The Hatchet

In his column for Bloomberg View, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at why Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan has decided to bury the hatchet with Vladimir Putin.

"The spat was unnatural for the two dictators, and what's a mere apology between two men who can do a lot to prop each other up?" Bershidsky writes.

"Erdogan is willing to let Kremlin propaganda outlets celebrate victory if that's necessary to start making deals with Russia again -- and to show the West that he has no shortage of alternative partners who don't try to impose their values on him."

Writing in, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov also unpacks the Erdogan-Putin rapprochement.

"Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan need each other in Syria," Frolov writes. "Both are stuck in a war which they cannot win and from which a political exit cannot be found."

China's Deals With Putin's Pals

Writing in Foreign Policy, Alexander Gabuev of the Moscow Carnegie Center takes a look at China's deals with Putin's pals.

"The Moscow-Beijing partnership is stalling," Gabuev writes. "But Xi is winning over the Russian president’s inner circle with favorable loans and sweetheart energy deals."

Eastern Angst

Giorgi Lomsadze has a piece in Eurasianet on the worries Brexit is causing in the European Union's eastern neighborhood.

"The bloc had been skeptical about its Eurasian partners even before Brexit, put off by Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine's weak economies and/or ongoing rows with Russia," Lomsadze writes.

"In the wake of Brexit, the bloc is expected to become more introverted, focusing on reform and shelving expansion."

Likewise, Andreas Umland of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website examining what Brexit means for Ukraine.

The Unbearable Heaviness Of Being

Vladislav Inozemtsev has a piece in Intersection magazine (in Russian and English) that looks at the increasing pressure on Russia's struggling middle class.

"For years, 'Putin’s consensus' -- famous throughout Russia -- has not only been propped up by relatively decent living standards ensured by the existing authorities, but also by the quality of life characterized by respect for the 'private space' of the majority of Russians, among others," Inozemtsev writes.

"Obviously, those who dream of a 'Russia without Putin' do not enjoy such privilege. However, economic and personal freedoms have been the most important basis of life for those who prefer to keep their distance from politics. The situation has changed dramatically in several ways over the last few years. The authorities increasingly encroach on the 'terrain of freedom' with new nonpolitical constraints."

The Arithmetic Of Grief In The Lake Syamozero Tragedy

Ilya Klishin has a post on Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall portal that looks at the "the arithmetic of grief" surrounding the 14 children who recently drowned in Lake Syamozero in Karelia.

"In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s final and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov, two characters, the brothers Ivan and Alyosha Karamazov, argue over the worth of a single tear shed by a child. It is a debate that remains unresolved to this day," Klishin writes.

"But now it looks as if the answer has finally been found in Russia -- albeit not the Russia of Dostoevsky, but of Putin. A few days ago, it became abundantly clear that the Kremlin at least knows what a child’s tear is NOT worth: a day of national mourning."

Did The Duma Just Kill The Internet?

Meduza has an editorial looking at how Russia's new "antiterrorism" law will adversely affect Internet companies and web users.

"This legislation isn't just impractical, but will also harm ordinary Internet users and Internet companies alike," Meduza opines.

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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