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The Morning Vertical, May 16, 2016


So what will RBC's senior editors do now that they have been sacked and one of Russia's best news sources is being emasculated? Maybe they can move to Riga and form a news agency called Pegasus, as Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies suggested on Facebook. (That is, after all, what their colleagues at did following a similar Kremlin assault on that once fine news agency. They moved to Riga and formed Meduza.) Will the Baltics now become the hub of independent Russian journalism? How will the crackdown on RBC effect the few remaining independent media outlets? What will happen at Vedomosti? At At Novaya Gazeta? In a remarkably brave move, The New Times today published an investigative piece (featured below) on Moscow properties linked to the FSB being registered offshore. They've clearly decided that if the last remaining free media is going down, it may as well go down swinging.


Be sure to check out this week's Power Vertical Briefing in which Steve Gutterman and I discuss the attack on RBC and new legislation restricting some Russians' right to travel.


And in case you missed Friday's Podcast, Georgia's Fading NATO Dream, in which I discuss Georgia's efforts to join the alliance with James Nixey of Chatham House and Tbilisi-based political analyst Ghia Nodia.


Russia's sports minister apologizes for doping scandal.

Ukraine's Jamala wins Eurovision as Russia cries foul.

The director of St. Petersburg's Symphony Orchestra has been found dead in his apartment.

The head of Chechnya's Supreme Court has resigned after being criticized by Ramzan Kadyrov.

A new report by the human rights group Agora claims that 6 percent of Russians have had their phones tapped from 2007-15.

Russia is reportedly planning to introduce a progressive income tax, replacing the current 13 percent flat tax, after the 2018 presidential elections.

Police officers have reportedly been killed in a shoot-out at a Moscow cemetery.

Remaining RBC editors will need to clear stories with the company's general director.


Offshore Paradise

The New Times has a new investigative report claiming that nearly one-fifth of the land and properties in the Moscow suburbs are registered offshore -- and many of them are former properties of the KGB and the FSB.

The Kleptocrats' Helpers

Anne Applebaum has a commentary in The Washington Post on how the United States and Great Britain help kleptocrats around the world -- and pay the price.

Here's the opening: "In the village of Bramley, Hampshire, an English country estate is undergoing a major renovation. A large crane can be seen from the road, along with wide lawns and the old trees of an elegant park. Beaurepaire Park was pointed out to me a few weeks ago by locals who told me the surprising name of their new neighbor: Yuri Luzhkov, the former mayor of Moscow.

Fascinated to learn that Luzhkov and his wife, Elena Baturina, Russia’s only female billionaire, had decided to experience English country life, I looked up the house in the British Land Registry. But although the purchase price was there – £5.5 million ($7.9 million) — I found no Russian names. The owner is Skymist Holdings Limited, which is also responsible for the extensive renovation. Were it a British company, it might be possible to check whether Luzhkov is really the owner. Alas, Skymist is registered in the British Virgin Islands, where ownership can be concealed, and the trail ends there."

Read the rest here.

Remembering Lennart Meri

On the eve of this past weekend's Lennart Meri conference, Donald Jensen remembered Estonia's moral lodestone and first post-Soviet president -- and what he stood for.

"With Europe wracked by a variety of challenges -- Russian aggression in Ukraine, terrorism, waves of immigrants from the Middle East, sluggish economies, and populist movements questioning the very democratic foundations of their societies -- it is wise to recall the spirit of Lennart Meri, the Estonian president in whose memory a major international conference is being held this weekend in Tallinn," Jensen wrote.

Baltic Security: It's Complicated

BNEIntellinews has a piece on NATO's Baltic buildup and a recent Lithuanian intelligence report on Russia's intentions.

"A recent intelligence revelation out of Lithuania spoke of how a couple years ago Russian paratroopers, simulating a special task operation in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between the NATO states of Poland and Lithuania, might have crossed over the border into Juodkrante, a lush Lithuanian settlement on the Baltic Sea," according to BNEIntellinews.

The Day RBC Died

Meduza has a piece on the dismantling of RBC and "how Russia gained and lost a great source of news."

Conspiracy Of The Day

And in today's nutty conspiracy theory news, Kommersant has an an interview with Vladimir Vasilyev of the Russian Academy of Sciences U.S.A. and Canada Institute arguing that Barack Obama is planning a castling move: making Joe Biden president and continuing to rule the country as vice president.

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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