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The Morning Vertical, March 16, 2018


An empty ritual and a full-on diplomatic confrontation.

A fake election and a very real international crisis.

Political theater in Moscow and an apparent political assassination attempt in the United Kingdom.

Two stories competed for our attention in recent weeks, as the campaign in Russia lurched toward it's conclusion and the British government accused Moscow of attempting to poison Sergei Skripal, a former double agent.

What do they tell us about where Russia is headed -- both at home and abroad -- after March 18?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll take a look. Joining me from Moscow will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the forthcoming book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia.

So be sure to tune in later today.


U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed the company founded by President Donald Trump for documents, including some related to Russia, media are reporting.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the West is not looking to start a new Cold War or an arms race with Russia, but he reiterated that the military alliance will defend "all allies against any threat."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the country’s law enforcement agencies were investigating rich Russian individuals with assets in Britain, and suggested that those who owe their wealth to their ties with President Vladimir Putin could be brought to justice.

The leaders of France, Germany, the United States, and Britain say Russian responsibility is the "only plausible explanation" for the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in England on March 4.

The European Union is unlikely to introduce new sanctions against Russia after the nerve-toxin poisoning of Skripal, people familiar with the matter have told RFE/RL.

U.S. authorities have announced new financial sanctions against Russia's top intelligence agencies, more than a dozen Russian citizens, and the company known as the Russian "troll factory" in the latest U.S. push to punish Moscow.

Police in New Zealand said on March 15 that they are investigating claims by a man who said he once worked for Russian intelligence and was poisoned in Auckland more than 10 years ago.

More than 170 gold bars fell out of a Russian cargo plane during takeoff on March 15 in the far-eastern city of Yakutsk, state media reported.

Lawmaker and former Russian captive Nadia Savchenko has traded incendiary accusations with senior Ukrainian authorities and faces possible arrest over what Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko alleged was a detailed plan for a devastating "terrorist" attack on parliament.

Ukraine's parliament has approved Yakiv Smoliy as the new chief of the National Bank.


Poison And Dark Power

In his column for Raam op Rusland, Mark Galeotti, author of the book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia, looks at the Skripal poisoning as an example of Russia's "dark power."

And in, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya writes that the Skripal poisoning was a message to former Russian spies living abroad.

The Putin Report

Opposition figures Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Milov have released a report on the results of Putin's rule. The report "Putin-Itogi 2018" continues a tradition pioneered by slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, to whom it is dedicated.

Putin's Gamble

In The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe argues that Putin isn't a tactical genius, he's "just a gambler who won big."

Revisiting To Nord-Ost

Also in, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin looks back at the 2002 Nord-Ost theater siege and the Kremlin's response to it.

Anton Shekhovtsov On The Tango Noir

Krisztian Simon interviews Anton Shekhovtsov, author of the book Russia And The Western Far Right: Tango Noir, for the Green European Journal.

Crime And Punishment In Belarus

Meduza has a feature story looking at the use of capital punishment in Belarus.

Life In The Russian 1990s

And for your weekend enjoyment, check out this compelling photo essay of Russia in the 1990s.

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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