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The Morning Vertical, May 19, 2016

Morning vertical 308x173
Morning vertical 308x173


The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia made little progress on resolving the Donbas conflict when they met in Berlin last week.

Nor did the trilateral contact group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ukraine, and Russia when they met in MInsk yesterday.

There was no progress on holding local elections in Russian-controlled Donbas.

There was no progress on bringing in armed police in to accompany OSCE observers.

And meanwhile, over a 24-hour period this week, Ukraine recorded no less than 24 attacks on its forces by Moscow-backed separatists. That's some ceasefire!

Isn't is time to admit the obvious?

The Minsk ceasefire is dead. It was a flawed deal that succeeded in one thing: preventing an all-out Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in the beginning of 2014. But it has now outlived its usefulness.

There has persistently been no progress on implementing Minsk because the parties to the agreement see it entirely differently. Ukraine and the West viewed Minsk as a way to stop the war. Russia viewed it as a tool to continue its assault on Ukraine by other means.


The Russian State Duma has passed the first reading of a bill formally establishing Vladimir Putin's National Guard.

An armed man who took hostages at a Moscow bank today was shot dead.

The International Olympic Committee head says Russia could be banned from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio over doping.

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss security threats in advance of the alliance's summit next month.

Montenegro is scheduled to sign its NATO accession agreement today.


The Kremlin's Media Crackdown

On his blog for the Kennan Institute, Vedomosti's editor-at-large, Maxim Trudolyubov looks at how the Kremlin is using "salami tactics" in its media crackdown.

"By now the Kremlin has achieved many of its real goals (not stated ones): it consolidated companies responsible for all natural resources and their exports; collected major industrial assets in large state-run holdings; put banking under state control; got rid of independent media; undermined all independent action by civil society; turned all domestic politics into a manageable theater; made the Orthodox Church a mighty supporter," Trudolyubov writes.

And in its piece Twelve Newsrooms In Five Years, Meduza takes a granular look at how the Kremlin has "decimated a news industry."

The War On The Magnitsky Act

In The Daily Beast, Michael Weiss looks at Russia's efforts to get the U.S. Magnitsky Act repealed.

On The Path To War?

In a new book, former Deputy NATO commander Alexander Richard Shirreff says Russia and the West are on the path to war.

Sweden And NATO

In a piece on The Atlantic Council's website, Aaron Korewa of the McCain Institute for International Leadership looks at why Sweden hasn't joined NATO.

Spooks And Crooks

Open Russia has published a summary and analysis of a 2007 Swiss intelligence report on cooperation between Russian organized crime and the FSB. The report was published this week on the Hudson Institute's Kleptocracy Archive.

Explaining Russia's Eurovision Fixation

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall looks at why Russians care so much about the Eurovision song festival.

The Minsk Fiction

On The Atlantic Council's website, Maksym Khylko, chairman of the board at the East European Security Research Initiative Foundation, warns Ukraine and the West: "Beware of Unrealistic Peace Plans. The Kremlin Will Outplay You Every Time."

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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