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The Morning Vertical, May 18, 2016


Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland in 1944. And it's worth noting that, like with other shameful events in Soviet history, the Kremlin and its surrogates are treating it's memory with stunning callousness.

The state-run Rossia-1 television station's commentary during the Ukrainian singer Jamala's performance of 1944, which honors the deportees -- and which eventually won this year's Eurovision Song Contest -- is a perfect example.

The channel's commentators called the song "a prayer of those leaving their homes searching for a better life far beyond" -- suggesting their forceful deportation of some 240,000 people on the Kremlin's orders was an act of free will.

At least one Russian was outraged. Lawyer Dmitry Sotnikov called the comment "blasphemy and an undisguised insult against the Crimean Tatars' national memory" and has launched a petition calling on the station to apologize.

Don't hold your breath. Sadly, people like Sotnikov remain a tiny minority in Vladimir Putin's Russia.


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland is in Moscow for talks with Russian officials.

The Russian Justice Ministry says a prisoner exchange that would release kidnapped Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko will probably not happen.

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of Josef Stalin's deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944.

And the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner said the persecution of Tatars has grown since Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The United States Justice Department has opened an investigation into Russian doping.

Four Russian weightlifters, including a world record holder, have been banned for doping.

The Russian government is holding up a bill that would classify the property records of officials.

Russian nationalist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin has been denied entry into Greece.

The Communist Party plans to use Josef Stalin's image in its advertising for September's State Duma elections.

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and his supporters were attacked by Cossacks at an airport in Krasnodarsky Krai.

According to amendments passed by the State Duma, some Russian NGOs will be exempt from the infamous "foreign agents" law.

Ukraine and Turkey have signed a military cooperation pact through 2020.


NATO's Baltic Gap

The Tallinn-based International Center for Defense and Security has a new report, Closing NATO's Baltic Gap, authored by three former NATO commander Wesley Clark, former Deputy NATO commander Richard Shirreff, retired German General Egon Ramms, and former Estonian Foreign and Defense Minister Juri Luik.

"NATO’s current posture, which is reliant on the reinforcement of the Baltic states, lacks credibility. The Alliance would be unable to deny Russia a military fait accompli in the region and, given Russia’s 'anti-access/area denial' (A2/AD) capabilities, to rapidly deploy additional forces there," the authors write.

Pavlensky Profiled

It's a couple weeks old, but Noah Sneider's profile of Pyotr Pavlensky in The Economist's 1843 magazine is worth reading.

"Pavlensky practises actionism, an art form with a rich history in Russia," Sneider writes. "He calls his particular brand of actionism "political art” (not to be confused with art about politics). He paints with the mechanisms of power and uses his own body as a canvas. He believes in the emancipatory potential of his works. As a means of revolution, it is almost certainly a futile endeavour; but as art, there is no clearer image of Russia in 2016.

Attacking Navalny

On Global Voices, Kevin Rothrock unpacks the attack on opposition leader and anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny and his allies at Anapa Airport.

The War On Eurovision

Writing in The New Yorker, journalist and author Masha Gessen looks at how Russia is declaring war on Eurovision.

Kleptocracy Database

And, just in case the Panama Papers weren't enough for you, the Hudson Institute's Kleptocracy Initiative has launched its searchable Kleptocracy Archive online.

Dying For Donbas

Alexander Motyl of Rutgers University Newark has a provocative piece titled Dying For Donbas on his blog on The World Affairs Journal website.

Here's the lede: "Just about every day, soldiers die. Sometimes, it’s as many as three or four. Sometimes, it’s two or three. Usually, it’s only one.
Only one young life snuffed out -- for what?
For the Russian-occupied Donbas enclave. That is to say, for nothing.
I can understand, intellectually, at least, dying for your family or friends, for your country or city or community, for democracy or peace or your nation.
But dying for a piece of crummy land populated by 3 million inhabitants, the vast majority of whom hate Ukraine and everything it stands for? That makes no sense.."

Read the rest here.

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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