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The Morning Vertical, March 1, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

One has to wonder whether Ildar Dadin is a harbinger of a new generation of Russian dissidents.

As I argued in today's Daily Vertical, over the past several months, the 34-year-old Dadin became Russia's most important dissident.

He was imprisoned based on a draconian law outlawing unsanctioned public protests -- even if they are attended by just one person.

He put a human face on the torture and abuse that is prevalent in Russian prisons.

And in the end, he won when the Supreme Court ordered his release.

When anti-Kremlin protests erupted in late 2011 and early 2012, myself and other Russia watchers interpreted this as the first post-Soviet generation finding its voice and demanding a more pluralistic political system.

We were proven wrong when this dissent was crushed and buried under a wave of Kremlin-enforced patriotism.

But Dadin's brave stand against the system, the fact that it garnered so much support, and the fact that he won in the end, is a sign that the first post-Soviet generation might yet find its voice again.

IN THE NEWS

Russia and China have blocked a push by Western governments at the United Nations to punish the Syrian government over chemical weapons attacks, the latest in a string of vetoes by Moscow and Beijing on resolutions about the six-year-old conflict.

A former employee of an electronics export company in the U.S. city of Houston has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally export microelectronics to Russia that were worth about about $50 million.

A court in Lithuania has sentenced a Russian citizen and a former Lithuanian military officer to prison on charges of spying for Russia.

Senior Russian and British military officials have held rare talks in Moscow aimed at avoiding clashes and lowering tensions that have spiked to their highest levels since the Cold War.

A court in Russia-annexed Crimea has set March 20 for the start of a trial against Mykola Semena, an RFE/RL contributing correspondent who faces separatism-related charges for one of his articles.

NATO has expressed concern over the announced closure by Russia-backed separatists in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region of two crossing points on the boundary line with Georgian-controlled territory.

Russia's Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to review the case of a kindergarten teacher who was imprisoned for reposting a child-abuse video in what she said was an innocent effort to raise awareness.

Russian police have searched the Moscow apartment of Zoya Svetova, a rights activist and journalist with ties to Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Russia organization, colleagues say.

Taisia Osipova, a Russian opposition activist arrested in 2010 on drugs charges she says were fabricated, has been released on parole after more than six years in prison.

Negotiators for the European Parliament and European Union member states have reached a deal to allow Ukrainian citizens to enter Schengen zone countries without a visa.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says he has requested permission for the police to break up an activist blockade of the country's transit routes with areas of the east held by separatists.

WHAT I'M READING

Baltic Fears

Estonian journalist and documentary filmmaker Imbi Paju, author of the book Memories Denied, has a piece for Project Syndicate on fears in the Baltic states.

"In the Baltics, we know well the feeling that our country is part of some great global game of money and manipulation. We haven’t forgotten the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the other secret protocols by which Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler in 1939 altered the fate of our countries almost overnight. How could we? Just a year later, the Soviet Union’s secret police began arresting and killing our parents and grandparents," Paju writes.

"We also have another dark memory of that time: collaboration and appeasement. Like anyone who has lived through occupation, violent regimes, and brutal wars, we know that trust, so long to develop, can be thrown away in an instant. It is so easy for immoral individuals to be bribed into betrayal."

Up North has published the text of a recent speech by the Finnish-Estonian novelist Sofi Oksanen titled "Your Silence Will Not Protect You," in which she discusses Finlandization, propaganda, and Russian imperialism.

Europe's Eastern Borderlands

In a piece for Stratfor, Eugene Chausovsky looks at the geopolitical situation on "Europe's borderlands" to the east, where "change blows in every direction."

The Costs Of Crimea

Peter Dickinson, editor-in-chief of the UATV English-language service and publisher of the magazines Business Ukraine and Lviv Today, has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website on the costs of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Putin's 'Liberalizations'

In a piece for Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya writes that "during Putin's rule there were three liberalizations. They all ended the same way."

The Empire Has No Clothes

In a commentary for Gazeta.ru, Natalya Oss says "Goodbye to Great Russia" and argues that the empire has no clothes.

"The myth of a great Russia is like a suitcase without a handle. It's hard to carry but a shame to throw it away. But throw it away we must. And right now," Oss writes.

Panel Discussion: What To Do About Russia

The U.S. Council on Foreign Relations has hosted a panel discussion, Russia: Rival or Partner, or Both? The discussion was moderated by Evelyn N. Farkas, a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and included Charles Kupchan and Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations, Angela Stent, director of Georgetown University's Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies. You can watch a video of the event here.

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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