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The Morning Vertical, March 22, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

It appears that Alyaksandr Lukashenka has made his choice.

For the past month, the Belarusian strongman has been showing an uncommon tolerance for protests against an unpopular tax on the unemployed. The protests were different in that they were led from the grass roots and not by Belarus's traditional opposition and in that they were taking place not just in Minsk but in provincial centers as well.

These were demonstrations by ordinary people driven by declining living standards.

But now Lukashenka seems to have decided to take a page out of Vladimir Putin's book, with arrests and accusations that Western intelligence services orchestrated the protests -- and accusations that the demonstrators are "fifth columnists."

The question now is how does the "Belarusian street" respond? Do they retreat, as Russian protesters did after Putin deployed the same tactic in 2012? Or do they come out in even greater numbers, as Ukrainians did in 2013-14?

We're about to find out just how different this round of Belarusian protests is.

IN THE NEWS

Vitaly Milonov, the firebrand nationalist Russian lawmaker, has called for a criminal investigation of the Freemasons, saying the fraternal organization is engaging in illegal political activity.

Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer representing the family of the deceased Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, has been hospitalized in Moscow with serious injuries after falling several stories.

A postgraduate student at Moscow State University says he was beaten and interrogated by the Federal Security Service after he exposed a makeshift Ukrainian flag on the third anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Russia's late United Nations Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been remembered with tributes and a moment of silence in the UN General Assembly hall.

A suspect in the deadly 2002 hostage-taking attack at a Moscow theater has been sentenced to 19 years in prison.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said about 20 armed militants who were planning "an armed provocation" in Belarus have been apprehended.

Ukraine's Central Bank says a blockade of the part of the country controlled by Russia-backed separatists will hit the country’s economy harder than previously expected.

Paul Manafort is under scrutiny again after a Ukrainian lawmaker released documents he says show that U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman went to great lengths to hide $750,000 tied to his work for former President Viktor Yanukovych.

WHAT I'M READING

The True Russian Threat

Index.hu has a fascinating interview with Ferenc Katrein, a former Hungarian security service agent, in which he talks in detail about Russia's efforts to destabilize Europe.

To Catch A Hacker

Garrett Graff has a piece in Wired looking at the hunt for Evgeniy Bogachev, Russia's most notorious hacker.

A Russian Spy In The EU

Jacobo Barigazzi has a piece in Politico profiling Alexandre Kojeve, one of the architects of the European Union who may have been a Russian spy.

The New Art Of Spying

In Republic.ru, Anastasia Zyryanova interviews Edward Jay Epstein, author of the book How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, The Man And The Theft, about how technology is changing the espionage game.

A New World Order -- And A Trap

Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund of the United States has a piece in Medium arguing that "abandoning the liberal international order for a spheres-of-influence world is a trap for America and its allies."

Putin's Lukashenka Problem

In a column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at how Alyaksandr Lukashenka has become a "thorn in Putin's side."

Understanding Russian News Consumption

Vox has an interview with Ellen Mickiewicz, author of the book No Illusions: The Voices Of Russia's Future Leaders, on how Russians watch the news.

Russian Nationalists Eye The Baltics

A piece in the Russian nationalist website Sputnik I Pogram on how to "reorganize" the Baltic states provides a valuable window into the thinking of Russia's far right.

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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