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The Morning Vertical, May 16, 2017


The trial of blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky for insulting the feelings of religious believers for playing Pokemon Go in church has yet again illustrated the degree to which the Kremlin is playing the traditional-values card.

Vladimir Putin's regime has been using this tactic -- support for "Christian values" and opposition to LGBT rights -- to shore up support at home and to drive a wedge into Western societies.

But it is still unclear the degree to which the Kremlin has truly gone ideological, or whether the values card is simply window dressing to legitimize a kleptocratic regime.

But what is becoming evident is that the power of such ideological appeals appears to be wearing off as demonstrations against corruption, against a new road tax that benefits Putin's cronies, and against the planned destruction of Khrushchev-era apartment blocks in Moscow persist.

As the Kremlin positions itself as the guardian of traditional values, opposition leaders like Aleksei Navalny and a critical mass of Russian society appear to be rallying behind a different set of values -- civic values.

This struggle between so-called traditional values and what appear to be resurgent civic values should prove to be a key dynamic going forward.


U.S. media are reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister during a meeting last week, potentially jeopardizing a source of intelligence about the extremist group Islamic State.

Kremlin-connected billionaire Oleg Deripaska has sued the Associated Press for defamation and libel over a report on his business ties to U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman.

A court in Russia's Tatarstan region has ordered a local activist to serve 10 days in jail in connection with a rally in support of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declined to state publicly whether he plans to seek a new six-year term in a March 2018 election.

A portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has been hung at a Moscow subway station in celebration of the 82nd anniversary of the opening of the Russian capital's underground transport network.

Yevhen Hrytsyak , one of the leaders of the 1953 Norilsk uprising, a major protest by inmates of the Soviet gulag prison-camp system, has died in Ukraine at the age of 90.

Major oil exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia say that an agreement to cut output should be extended through March 2018.

Hundreds of young activists have disrupted public discussions of Georgia's constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party.


In case you missed it, in my latest Power Vertical blog post, The Russophobia Weapon, I traced the history of one of the Kremlin's favorite slurs against its opponents.


Criminalizing Atheism?

In a video commentary on Channel One, television anchor Vladimir Posner asks, in response to the conviction of blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky for playing Pokemon Go in church, if Russians can now be prosecuted for atheism.

The End Of The 'Post-Soviet Era'

Vadim Dubnov has a piece in Novaya Gazeta about how only one leader of a former Soviet state, Moldova's Igor Dodin, came to Moscow for this year's Victory Day celebrations. Dubnov argues that this illustrates that the "post-Soviet era" is being replaced by the "Russian world."

Russia's Political War On The West

Mark Galeotti, a senior policy fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, has a piece in the NATO Review explaining how Russian intelligence is waging a political war on the West.

And in a piece on the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) website, veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas looks at how Russia's attempt to meddle in the French presidential elections was foreshadowed by Moscow's actions in Central Europe.

The Axis Of Emptiness

Galeotti also has a piece in BNEIntellinews on what he calls the "axis of emptiness" in U.S.-Russian relations

Dangerous Exercises

Colonel Tomasz K. Kowalik, director of the Military Foreign Affairs Department at the Polish Defense Ministry, and Dominik P. Jankowski, head of the OSCE and Eastern Security Unit at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have a piece on the CEPA website on why Russian military exercises are potentially dangerous.

Ukraine's Biggest Enemy

Peter Dickinson, publisher of the magazines Business Ukraine and Lviv Today, has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website arguing that Putin isn't Ukraine's biggest enemy.

Ukraine's KGB Archives

In Euromaidan Press, historian Ihor Vynokurov explains what Ukrainians have learned from the opening of the KGB archives.

The Great Game In The Balkans

In a blog post for the London School of Economics, Jaroslaw Wisniewski, a visiting fellow at the LSE European Institute, explains how Russia is upping its game in the Balkans.

My Home Is My Fortress

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at the protests in Moscow over the planned destruction of Khrushchev-era apartment blocks.

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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