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The Morning Vertical, March 2, 2017


It is becoming increasingly unlikely that the status quo in the territories occupied by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine is going to hold much longer. Moscow has recognized documents issued by separatist authorities in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics. Authorities in Luhansk have made the ruble their official currency. And now, Russia-backed separatists have begun seizing the property of Ukrainian oligarchs.

In a piece for (featured below), Russian opposition journalist Oleg Kashin speculates that the Kremlin may be contemplating something that was off the table just months ago -- an outright annexation of the territories.

Perhaps. I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm also not yet convinced. A more likely scenario, I think, would be formal Kremlin recognition of their independence.

Whatever the case, one thing is clear. The Minsk peace process is dead. The status quo in the Donbas is dying. And the post-Minsk world is going to be a very different place.


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio says he expects bipartisan support for renaming the street in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington to honor Russia's slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared that the country's anti-doping efforts "failed," but reiterated his claim that it has never had a state-sponsored system for using banned substances to boost performance in sports.

The World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed Putin's acknowledgement that his country's doping system is not working and needs an overhaul.

A British Parliamentary committee has urged the government not to boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia as part of a protest against Russian President Putin.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose in his confirmation hearings that he had two conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential campaign season last year.

News media in the United States are reporting that White House attorneys have instructed President Donald Trump's staff to preserve materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidentally struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State militants.

Russia has said it is waiting with "patience" for indications about the future course of Washington's policy toward Moscow.

Russia-backed separatists seized a telecom firm and a charity controlled by Ukraine’s richest man, escalating tensions over a trade blockade between separatist-controlled territory and the rest of the country.


In case you missed it, my latest Power Vertical blog post, Belarus And Russia: This Time It's Different, looks at why the latest spat between Minsk and Moscow is much more dangerous than the ones we've see so far.


Navalny Strikes Again

Opposition leader and anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny has released a new video exposing what he calls Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's real-estate empire.

Donbas Nash?

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin asks whether the Kremlin is contemplating annexing the separatist-held areas of the Donbas.

What Liberal World Order?

Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations has a piece describing the components of the "liberal world order" and speculating about its future.

Jailed For A Like

Coda has a new mini-documentary series looking at Russians who have been imprisoned for their activities on social media.

The first episode looks at the case of Ruslan Sokolovsky, who was prosecuted for playing Pokemon Go in church and posting the video on YouTube.

The second episode explains the case of Yevgenia Chudnovets, who was imprisoned for sharing a video of a child being abused at a camp on VKontakte, in what she described as an effort to raise awareness of the problem of child abuse.

Lessons From Finland

Reid Standish has a piece in Foreign Policy on the lessons we can learn from Finland in resisting Russia's information war.

A Five-Story Story

On The Russia File blog, Maxim Trudolyubov of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute explains what the much-maligned "Khrushchevka" buildings -- the five-story apartment blocks built under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev -- say about Russia today.

Nepotism Watch

Kommersant is reporting that the son of Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev has been placed in charge of a joint venture between Gazprom and LUKoil in the Caspian.

The Future Of The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

In a paper for Strategic Studies Quarterly, Ulrich Kuhn and Anna Peczeli map out future scenarios for the fate of the landmark 1987 INF treaty and their implications for Russia and NATO.

Putin The Superhero

At Global Voices, the irrepressible Kevin Rothrock has a piece looking at former Arkhangelsk Mayor Aleksandr Donskoi's efforts to create a "Putin-Superhero" art show.

SRB Podcast

The latest edition of the SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at cultural life in the waning years of the Romanov dynasty. Sean's guest is Rebecca Mitchell, a history professor at Middlebury College and author of the book Nietzsche's Orphans: Music, Metaphysics And The Twilight Of The Russian Empire.

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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