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The Morning Vertical, June 6, 2017


In a piece featured below, Ruslan Gorevoy wrote that new powers acquired by Russia's National Guard are turning it into something akin to Ivan the Terrible's "Oprichniki" or Josef Stalin's NKVD.

That may be a bit of a stretch. The National Guard hasn't been empowered to carry out extrajudicial executions, at least not yet. And they certainly won't be riding around the country on black horses and clad in monastic garb, sacking cities and torturing dissidents.

But Putin did just give the guard the right to assume control over and give direct orders to regular military units.

And as Aleksandr Golts notes in another piece featured below, this suggests that the Kremlin expects mass protests and civil unrest -- and is preparing to use military force to suppress them if necessary.

And it's preparing to do so under the command of a force that reports to Putin alone and is run by his crony and former bodyguard.

It may not be the Oprichniki or the NKVD. But it is disturbing nonetheless.


A top-secret National Security Agency document leaked to news media shows that hackers from Russian military intelligence tried repeatedly to break into U.S. voting systems before last year's presidential election.

Montenegro has formally joined NATO, with U.S. and Montenegrin officials sending subtle messages to Russia and the alliance's chief trying to allay concerns about the U.S. commitment to the alliance.

The deputy governor of Russia's Kursk Oblast, Vasily Zubkov, has been arrested on suspicion of corruption.

A man in the Russian region of Tatarstan has been awarded compensation after a court found that he had been tortured by police.

A Chechen man who claimed in 2013 that he was tortured by police has been detained in Russia's Bryansk region.

The trial of RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena, a Crimean journalist who is fighting what he says is a politically motivated separatism charge on the Russian-controlled peninsula, resumed on June 5 in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

A team of open-source researchers investigating the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has published reports linking the movements of Russian military equipment to the plane's downing.

Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey have launched joint military drills near Tbilisi.


The War On Democracy

Freedom House has released a new report, Breaking Down Democracy: Goals, Strategies, And Methods Of Modern Authoritarians.

Putin's Praetorian Guard

Putin signed a decree on May 24 giving the commander of his National Guard the power to commandeer units from the regular army.

Just days after the decree was issued, Yury Baluyevsky, who advises the National Guard, published an article in Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, arguing that the main threats to Russia's security come from within the country.

Political analyst Ruslan Gorevoy weighs in about what this means in a piece in Versia, arguing that this turns the guard into a force resembling Ivan the Terrible's Oprichniki or Josef Stalin's NKVD.

Military analyst Aleksandr Golts also gives his take in Yeshednevny Zhurnal, arguing that the Kremlin is preparing to use military force to suppress dissent.

Washington, Moscow, And Transatlanticism

Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Carpenter talks to Vocal Europe about Russia, NATO, and the future of transatlantic relations.

Evolution Of The Russian Media

Public Diplomacy magazine has an interview with former Russian journalist Vasily Gatov, a visiting fellow at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center of Communication Leadership and Policy, on the evolution of the post-Soviet Russian media.

Trolling Romania

Corina Rebegea, director of the U.S.-Romania Initiative and a fellow-in-residence at the Center for European Policy Analysis, has a piece on the CEPA website looking at the shadowy world of pro-Kremlin trolls in Romania.​

A New Europe?

Also on the Center for European Policy Analysis website, CEPA vice president and veteran Kremlin watcher Edward Lucas has a piece on Central Europe in the age of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

Belarusian Foreign Policy

The Riga-based Center for East European Policy Studies has released a new book, edited by Andis Kudors, on Belarusian foreign policy. The book has sections on the domestic drivers of foreign policy as well as on Belarus's relations with the West, Russia, and its neighbors.

Estonia And Refugees

Time magazine has an interesting piece on Estonia's efforts to welcome refugees and the unintended misunderstandings this is causing.

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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