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The Morning Vertical, March 21, 2018


Vladimir Zhirinovsky is more than the Kremlin's court jester.

He's the Kremlin's messenger. He launches trial balloons. And what he says often turns out to be prophetic.

Back in March 2000, when Putin was first elected, Zhirinovsky told stunned journalists at the Central Election Commission in Moscow that the "end of democracy" was coming and "you're all on the list."

So perhaps we should seriously consider his comments today claiming that the March 18 presidential election would be Russia's last.

Zhirinovsky told journalist that by 2024, Russia's "presidency will be replaced by a State Council, which will be not elected but appointed."

These remarks didn't come out of thin air.

As I wrote on The Power Vertical blog back in November, there have been leaks out there for months claiming that Putin would remain in power beyond 2024 through the establishment of a Chinese-style State Council.

Just three days have passed since Putin won a fourth term. And the signs keep piling up that what we witnessed on March 18 was not an election, but a swan song for an era when Russia even went through the motions of pretending to be a "managed" democracy.


Vladimir Putin has directed his country's envoys to seek changes in international doping rules that have led to Russia's banishment from major world sporting events since 2015.

A 13-year-old girl has opened fire with a gas pistol at her school in Russia's Kurgan region, injuring seven seventh graders, police say.

A Russian whistle-blower linked to slain Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has handed herself in to the police in Greece, saying she feared for her life.

The Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves has kicked off what they call their "Russian Balkans" tour with a visit to the Serbian town of Sid .

Authorities in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia have handed over to Tbilisi authorities the body of a Georgian man who died while in the custody of separatist officials.

Leading U.S. senators said Russian-linked hackers succeeded in penetrating the voting system in at least one U.S. state in 2016, as lawmakers called for new efforts to protect those U.S. election systems from hacking.

The commander of U.S. nuclear forces says that Russia has increased its deployment of cruise missiles that Washington asserts are in violation of a key Cold War arms-control treaty, a signal that Moscow continues to be undeterred by U.S. warnings.

U.S. President Donald Trump has congratulated Putin two days after the Russian leader's landslide election victory, saying he hopes the two leaders will soon meet to discuss several crises around the world.

Russia's state transport agency Rostransnadzor has ordered the country’s airlines to ground their Antonov An-148 aircraft after one crashed last month.

Russia's media regulator has ordered Telegram to give the Federal Security Service access to users' messaging data within 15 days, prompting a defiant response from the popular app's co-founder.

Prosecutors in a politically charged child-pornography case have asked a Russian court to convict Yury Dmitriyev, a historian and activist who says he is innocent, and sentence him to nine years in prison.


The Next Attack

Alina Polyakova of the Brookings Institution has a piece for Lawfare looking at the recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that Russian government hackers infiltrated critical infrastructures in the United States. The next attack, she argues, will be worse than bots and trolls.

Choices For The Choice-less

In an op-ed in The Moscow Times, Konstantin Sonin, a professor at the University of Chicago and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, explains what Russians can choose to do when they have no choice.

Target Of Opportunity

Former U.S. State Department official Donald Jensen, a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, has a piece looking at how Italy's election opens up opportunities for Russia in Europe.

A Rock Star's Fall From Grace

In his column for, opposition journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin looks at Time Machine frontman Andrei Mararevich's fall from grace with the Russian authorities and explains what the "persecution" of the popular musician illuminates.

Poisonous Motives

Maria Snegovaya, a PhD candidate at Columbia University and an adjunct fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, looks at the possible motives behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

The Non-Velvet Divorce

On the Carnegie Moscow website, Dmitri Trenin looks at Russia's messy and violent divorce from Ukraine and argues that "an independent Ukrainian state and a Ukrainian political nation" could "ease Russia’s transition from its post-imperial condition and facilitate the formation of a Russian political nation."

Ukraine's Divisions

In a piece for the International Crisis Group, Katharine Quinn-Judge looks at Ukraine's domestic politics and argues that "psychological barriers are compounding the physical divisions."

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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