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The Morning Vertical, March 27, 2017


One weekend. Two countries. Two nationwide protests. And two crackdowns.

This weekend's demonstrations in Russia and Belarus illustrate that autocratic countries are not immune to the antiestablishment wave that has swept the democratic West in recent years.

And the heavy-handed tactics used by Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka illustrate that their respective regimes take the threat of a popular uprising seriously.

Moscow and Minsk both understand that these protests are different from past demonstrations because they are driven not by politics but by economics: declining living standards in Belarus and corruption in Russia.

And when people are protesting over pocketbook issues, they tend to be more persistent, more determined, and less fearful than those demonstrating for abstract political principles.

So both regimes will continue to crack down. But protests like these will continue nonetheless.

2017 is shaping up to be a year of showdowns in both Russia and Belarus.


Anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny has been taken to a Moscow court one day after the anticorruption activist was detained by police along with hundreds of other demonstrators at protests held in dozens of Russian cities.

Belarusian opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich, who was missing for three days, is at home.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani is beginning a two-day visit to Russia today. He is scheduled to meet with President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.

OPEC, and several nonmember oil producers including Russia, met in Kuwait and said they have agreed to review whether an agreement to cut supplies should be extended by six months.

Emergency officials said two trains collided in the central Russian region of Bashkortostan, killing at least three people.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said a military helicopter crashed in the eastern Donbas region, killing five people aboard.

Official results in Bulgaria have given the pro-Western party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov victory in national parliamentary elections, and the pro-Russia Socialists have conceded defeat.


In case you missed it, this week's Power Vertical Podcast, Follow The Money, took a deep dive into the new report on Russian money laundering by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.


And this week's Power Vertical Briefing looks at the fallout from this weekend's protests in Russia and Belarus.


The Woman In The Photo

Meduza tells the story of the well-dressed woman in the iconic photo from Sunday's protest. It turns out she was just walking home from McDonald's with her mother when police grabbed her.

The Kids On The Street

In, Dmitry Travin looks at how young people are changing the face of Russian protests.

Dreams Of Empire

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin also has an op-ed in The Guardian in which he argues that "Putin’s desire for a new Russian empire won’t stop with Ukraine."

The House That Putin Built

In an op-ed for The Guardian, Dmitry Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, writes that "Russia is the house that Putin built -- and he'll never abandon it."

"By co-opting the masses against the elite, the president has shaped a country to echo his values and grievances. And now he’s working to secure his legacy," Trenin writes.

The Pivot From Europe

In Intersection magazine, Anton Barbashin looks at Russia's pivot away from Europe, which is turning it into "a resource appendage of China."

The Case For A Cyber National Guard

In Real Clear Defense, Daniel Goure, a vice president of the Lexington Institute, argues for the establishment of a Cyber National Guard.

Photos And Lessons From The Belarusian Street

BelarusFeed has a photo essay on this weekend's protests and crackdown in Belarus.

And Euromaidan Press offers five takeaways from the Belarusian protests.

An Assassination And A Message

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that the assassination of former State Duma Deputy Denis Voronenkov "sends a chilling message."

The Literary Lenin

Tariq Ali, author of the forthcoming book The Dilemmas Of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution writes in The Guardian that the Bolshevik leader's love of literature helped shape the Russian revolution.

The Literary Surkov

It appears that Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov is about to publish a new book (under his preferred pen name, Natan Dubovitsky), describing how Putin is forced from power in 2024.

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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