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The Morning Vertical, March 15, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

On the 100th anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II's abdication today, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin ruled out the restoration of the monarchy in Russia.

But he didn't say anything about the restoration of the Russian Empire.

That Kremlin project, it appears, is continuing apace three years after the annexation of Crimea.

Moscow is moving to incorporate the armed forces of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region into the Russian command structure.

It is recognizing documents issued by separatist authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk and encouraging the use of the ruble there. And as I note on today's Daily Vertical, new legislation working its way through the State Duma would grant Russian citizenship to any Russian-speaker who lived in the Soviet Union -- as well as to the descendants of those who lived in the Russian Empire.

A century ago the Russian Empire collapsed following the abdication of Nicholas II.

Just over a quarter of a century ago, its reincarnation in the form of the Soviet Union collapsed as well.

And now Vladimir Putin seems intent on correcting what he has called "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century."

Vladimir Putin's desire to revive the old empire has always been latent. Now it is increasingly manifest.

IN THE NEWS

Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to conclude an agreement to effectively incorporate the military of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region into the Russian armed forces' command structure.

Prosecutors say a 28-year-old man from Vladivostok in Russia's Far East has been convicted of hate speech for denigrating ethnic Russians during a volleyball game that turned heated.

Oksana Sevastidi, a Russian woman who was convicted of treason over a text message and pardoned by President Vladimir Putin, was pressured by her jailer to ask for clemency, her lawyer said.

Media are reporting that U.S. authorities will shortly issue criminal indictments against four people, three of them in Russia, in connection with massive hacking attacks on Yahoo that were the largest ever reported.

Milo Djukanovic, the former prime minister of Montenegro, has appealed to the European Union to curb Russia's "destructive" influence in the Balkans.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Russian state was behind an attack on a prominent rights defender and three journalists in 2007, and ordered Moscow to compensate them for "illegal freedom deprivation and torture."

The United States and the United Nations have voiced concern about what human rights groups say is the Belarusian government's biggest crackdown on protesters in years.

Ukraine's Security and Defense Council says Kyiv has suspended all cargo traffic with areas held by Russia-backed separatists.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proposed a bill that would ban dual citizenship.

WHAT I'M READING

Russia's Play For Libya

In a piece for Republic.ru, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian Foreign Ministry official, weighs in on the Kremlin's recent moves in Libya.

"There are three goals in Libya," Frolov writes.

"The first is continuing the revival of Russia's status as a great power, which began in Syria. For this, Moscow needs to return to the Middle East and limit US influence in the region. The second is to counter colored revolutions. The Russian authorities believe that they must reverse Western-backed popular uprisings against sovereign dictators. And the third goal is the restoration of Moscow's network of client states in the Middle East and North Africa. This is necessary for the successful monetization of Russian military "anti-terrorism services" in the form of military bases, profitable weapons contracts, the development of oil and gas fields, and the construction of transportation infrastructure."

In a piece for OpenDemocracy, Anna Arutunyan, author of the book The Putin Mystique, looks at Aleksei Navalny and the fusion of nationalism, legalism, and the fight against corruption.

"Russia’s legal-rational establishment has yet to emerge. But the rise of Alexei Navalny demonstrates that when it does, it will inevitably be nationalist," Arutunyan writes.

The Geopolitics Of Pipelines

Martin Vladimirov of the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy and Sijbren de Jong of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies have a piece on The Atlantic Council's website on "Deciphering Russia's Pipeline Agenda In Europe."

The Parasites' Uprising

Vadim Mozheiko has a piece in Republic.ru, The Uprising Of The Angry Parasites. How Lukashenka Caused His Own Supporters to Protest.

Passports As Weapons

In Yezhednevny Zhurnal, political analyst Aleksandr Golts looks at proposed legislation from State Duma deputies Konstantin Zatulin and Natalya Poklonskaya that offers Russian citizenship to any Russian speaker who lived in the Soviet Union -- and Russian-speaking descendants of those who lived in the Russian Empire.

The Crimean Annexation

As the third anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea approaches, Paul Niland takes a look back in an explainer and timeline in The Kyiv Post.

The Near Revolution

In a piece in Forbes, Paul Coyer, a Research Professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., looks at Belarus's "near revolution."

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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