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The Morning Vertical, June 30, 2016


Nikita Belykh is the third Russian regional governor arrested this year. So we have a trend. In an insightful and highly recommended piece featured below, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya looks at five contradictions the Belykh case highlights.

The one that caught my attention most was whether regime liberals like Belykh are now seen as "a fifth column or partners of the regime." Belykh was appointed governor of the Kirov region in 2009, during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, at a time when the Kremlin was trying to appear moderate and court liberals and the urban middle class. That effort, of course, ended when Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012.

Belykh, who once led the opposition Union of Right Forces, is seen as close to regime liberals like Aleksei Kudrin and Anatoly Chubais, and his arrest is raising questions about whether a campaign against the elite's technocratic wing may be coming.

Belykh's arrest, and those of other governors, is also sending a message that regional leaders are far from safe, regardless of their politics -- and is sparking fears in the broader elite that a general purge may be under way.


President Vladimir Putin has called for the lifting of a ban on tourists traveling to Turkey after a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which both leaders pledging to restore damaged relations.

And Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has instructed the government to begin dismantling economic sanctions against Ankara.

Nikita Belykh, a Kirov regional governor and Kremlin critic who was detained on bribery charges this week, has started a hunger strike, his lawyer announced on June 29.

Mobile operators are warning of price hikes due to Russia's "antiterrorist" legislation passed by Russia's parliament this week.

The head of Vladimir Putin's Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, has sent a letter to the Kremlin leader asking him not to sign the so-called antiterrorism legislation.

Russia and NATO plan to hold a meeting after the alliance's summit in Warsaw on July 8-9.

Russia has extended its ban on Western food imports until the end of 2017.


We Have Always Been Friends (Or Enemies) With Turkey!

In a piece in, journalist Andrei Arkhangelsky looks at how quickly -- and seamlessly -- Turkey went from being a friend to an enemy to a friend of Russia.

"It's like a remnant of the old Soviet dual morality: the need to stigmatize 'decaying capitalism' on the party committee and then buy American jeans from speculators," Arkhangelsky writes.

The Unexpected Revolution

In a piece in the Russian edition of Forbes, political analyst Mikhail Komin argues that the Kremlin is focusing on the wrong revolutionary threat.

"The main problem of the stability of the Russian regime is not so much in the growing social groups that may become new sources of protests," Komin writes.

"It is the fact that the current political institutions are degrading and from year to year are becoming less able to resolve social contradictions peacefully."

A Puppet Master Or A Puppet

In, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at the unlikely candidacy of Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff Vyacheslav Volodin for a seat in the State Duma. Is it intrigue designed to undermine the Kremlin's chief political strategist or is Volodin playing his own game?

The Belykh Case

Also in, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya looks at five dilemmas for the Kremlin amplified by the corruption case against Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh.

Politics As Football

Sergei Orlov has a piece on Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall portal contrasting the behavior of Russia's football coach following the team's inglorious exit from Euro 2016 to that of Russian politicians.

"Announcing his resignation, coach Leonid Slutsky publicly shouldered the blame for Russia’s failure to progress from the group stage; several players, meanwhile, apologized to fans for the team’s disastrous showing," Orlov writes.

"In so doing, coach and players effectively broke with the age-old Russian tradition, which dictates that public figures (whether footballers or politicians) are not obliged to answer to anyone (whether their fans or the electorate)."

Brexit: Russia's Double-Edged Sword

Writing on his blog, Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow at the Kennan Institute, unpacks Russia's response to Brexit.

"Brexit, being a welcome surprise for Russia’s political leadership, also reminds the Kremlin of a hidden challenge," Trudolyubov writes.

"If national politics trump supranational agendas everywhere, Russia is in trouble. For the past decade, the Kremlin has been making sure the Russian population subsists on news about Russia’s engagement with its international enemies, the likes of Britain and the U.S. Just like Britain, Russia has a national health-care system and numerous depressed small towns. In fact, there are more of them in Russia than in Great Britain. If the Russian public wakes up and decides to prioritize the national agenda over the international one, the consequences for the Kremlin would be much tougher than the consequences of Brexit are for Whitehall."

Mr. Putin Goes To China

Sijbren de Jong of The Hague Center for Strategic Studies takes a detailed look at the Sino-Russian relationship in a new piece for EUObserver.

Promise Or No Promise

On the latest SRB Podcast, Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies looks at one of the most contentious issues about the end of the Cold War: NATO's alleged "pledge" not to expand eastward. Sean's guest is Josh Shifrinson, an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and author of the article Deal Or No Deal? The End Of The Cold War And The U.S. Offer To Limit NATO Expansion, published in the Spring 2016 issue of International Security.

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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