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The Morning Vertical, June 9, 2017


What exactly is Russia's National Guard and how is Vladimir Putin planning to use it?

Is it a revival of Josef Stalin's NKVD? A 21st century version of Ivan the Terrible's Oprichniki? Or is it just Putin's scarecrow?

It's been just over a year since Putin established the guard as a domestic security force and placed it in the hands of his uber-loyal former bodyguard Viktor Zolotov.

And the guard has quickly taken on a mystique and a menacing aura, one that its top commanders have eagerly encouraged.

As rumblings of protest gather steam and as the elite gets increasingly restless, what role will the National Guard play as Russia enters what appears to be a tumultuous political season?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll look at the National Guard and its controversial leader -- and what we should expect from them.

Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, head of its Center for European Security, and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; and military analyst Aleksandr Golts, editor in chief of Yezhednevny Zhurnal.

It promises to be a good show so be sure to tune in later today!


Vladimir Putin in an interview excerpt released on June 8 said his longtime critic U.S. Senator John McCain is living in the "Old World," but he admires the former Republican presidential candidate's patriotism.

A court in Montenegro has confirmed the indictment of 14 people, including two Russians and two pro-Russia opposition leaders, over their alleged roles in what authorities say was a plot to overthrow the government last year.

The Ukrainian parliament has defined cooperation with NATO, with the ultimate goal of joining the Western military alliance, as a top priority for the country in the face of Russian "aggression."

Russian officials say that Yulia Khrushcheva, a granddaughter of the late Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, has died after being hit by a train on the outskirts of Moscow.

A court in St. Petersburg on June 8 ordered the spiritual leader of the city's branch of the Church of Scientology held in detention for two months.

Law-enforcement authorities have carried out an unannounced search at the Moscow office of Rus Sidyashchaya, a Russian human rights organization that advocates for inmates.

A spokeswoman for U.S. President Donald Trump says sanctions against Russia for its interference in Ukraine would remain in place until the crisis is resolved.

A decision to rename the Russian Premier League soccer club Terek Grozny after the late father of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is not sitting well with some of its fans.


What The Comey Affair Could Teach Russia

In his column for, foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov argues that the scandal surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey provides useful lessons for the Kremlin in its relations with the security services.

The Antiestablishment Wave

The Moscow-based Minchenko Consulting has released a report arguing that the antiestablishment wave that has been sweeping the West could also hit Russia and become evident in regional elections this fall.

The Kremlin And The Youth Vote

Vedomosti's Elena Mukhametshina and Olga Churakova have a piece looking at Putin's reelection strategy, part of which will be aimed at "conformist" first-time voters.

The Politics Of History

In Intersection magazine, Aleksandr Fokin, a professor at Chelyabinsk State University, looks at the ideological undertones of Russia's new compulsory history exam for high school graduates.

Putin's Children

Time Magazine has a photo essay on the generation born under Vladimir Putin.

Long Live The Bureaucrats has a graphically illustrated piece looking at the number of state employees in Russia historically.

Gaming The Blacklist

Meduza has a piece examining how activists have exploited vulnerabilities in Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor's system of blacklisting and blocking websites.

SRB Podcast

This week's SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at early Soviet rule in Tajikistan. Sean's guest is Botakoz Kassymbekova, a research associate at Humboldt University in Berlin and author of the book Despite Cultures: Early Soviet Rule In Tajikistan.

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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