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The Morning Vertical, March 29, 2017


After last weekend's protests in Russia it is easy to have a sense of deja vu.

On one hand, just as in 2011-12, there is a sense that something very important has changed. There is a sense that the Kremlin's aura of omnipotence has been pierced.

But on the other hand, everybody knows how 2011-12 ended: with a harsh crackdown on dissent followed by a military adventure in Ukraine.

There's suddenly a sense that Vladimir Putin's regime feels threatened. But there is also a sense that the regime is very dangerous when it feels threatened.

Aleksei Navalny unexpectedly managed to land a punch last weekend. And now we are awaiting the Kremlin's counterpunch.


The U.S. Senate has given final approval of Montenegro's bid to join NATO, an enlargement of the alliance that is likely to further anger Russia.

A senior U.S. official says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will discuss at an upcoming NATO foreign ministers meeting the need for the alliance to pressure Russia over "aggression against its neighbors" and fulfill its commitments to end the war in Ukraine.

An instructor at the Moscow Conservatory has resigned after a video came to light showing her leading a class session in which various opposition political parties, activists, and others were labeled "fifth columnists" and "traitors."

Maksim Senakh, a Russian man extradited from Finland to the United States two years ago on computer-fraud charges, has pleaded guilty to spreading malicious software and netting millions of dollars for himself.

More than two-thirds of Russian believe that President Vladimir Putin is "entirely" or "significantly" responsible for massive corruption among state officials, according to a new survey by the Levada Center.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon has said he will sign a cooperation memorandum with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union at a conference in Chisinau on April 3-4.

Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin-connected billionaire, has accused the Associated Press of generating a "massive and misleading campaign" against him with its recent report on his ties to U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

The Kremlin says it was unaware of what it called "routine business" activity between U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and officials from state-owned Russian development bank Vneshekonombank.

Authorities in the Russian capital have fenced off Pushkin Square two days after an anticorruption protest drew thousands of protesters to the spot in central Moscow.

A municipal court in the Russian city of Novocheboksarsk has fined a man 1,000 rubles ($18) for posting on social media information that a previous accusation against him of posting "extremist" information had been annulled.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rohani, have held wide-ranging talks in Moscow.

Uncertainty continues to surround the status of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov a day after the World Chess Federation said the controversial Russian had resigned as its president.

The top European Union court has ruled that EU sanctions imposed on Russian energy giant Rosneft over Moscow's seizure of Crimea and involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine are lawful.

The head of the Russian Interior Ministry's construction department has reportedly been shot dead in Moscow.

The largest Russian bank, Sberbank, is selling its Ukrainian branches amid increasing pressure from the Ukrainian government and protesters in Ukraine.


Frontline State

On The Washington Post's Cape UP Podcast, host Jonathan Capehart talks to Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid about NATO, the Russian threat, and Estonia's security.

Vice, meanwhile, has produced a short video on the Estonian Defense Forces.

Russia And The Dark Side

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has an op-ed in The Moscow Times on the assassination of Russian defector Denis Voronenkov in Kyiv and Moscow's turn to "the dark side."

Putin's Donbas Trap

Peter Dickinson, editor in chief of UATV's English-language service and publisher of the magazines Business Ukraine and Lviv Today, has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website on how "Putin is a prisoner of his own hybrid war."

Winds Of Change?

Also on The Atlantic Council's website, Natalia Arno, president of the Washington-based Free Russia Foundation, explains why this weekend's protests will change Russia.

Waging Lawfare

Oleksandr Merezhko, a law professor at the Kyiv National Linguistic University, has a piece in Intersection magazine on Ukraine's surprisingly strong legal strategy in suing Russia over the annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbas.

Enabling The Kleptocracy

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, has a piece in The Daily Mail on how British lawyers and bankers are complicit in Russia's corruption.

Russia's War On Western Democracy

New York University's Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia has released a report detailing Russia's attacks on Western democracies.

The Most Hated Man In Russia

In Foreign Policy, Moscow-based journalist Ola Cichowlas explains how Dmitry Medvedev has gone from being a punchline to being "the most hated man in Russia."

Mapping The Protests

Meduza has a helpful map of how many people protested in Russia this weekend, where they protested, and how many were detained.

Russia And Lobbying has a piece looking at why Russia is largely absent from official lobbying in Washington.

A New Opposition? Not So Fast

Also in, Andrei Movchan of the Moscow Carnegie Center argues that it is too early to speak of a new Russian opposition.

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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