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The Morning Vertical, May 23, 2016

Morning vertical 308x173
Morning vertical 308x173


There are lies. There are damn lies. And then there is Russia television.

Le Petit Journal, a satirical French current affairs program hosted by Yann Barthes, has picked apart a May 15 report on Russian state television about the fears Paris residents allegedly have of migrants.

Le Petit Journal re-interviewed each person that Russian television spoke to and showed that their comments had been either fabricated or taken completely out of context. A subtitled version is now burning up Russian social media.

But here's the thing. What Le Petit Journal just did could probably be done every single day.

Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov just got caught using a fake Nazi ID on a recent broadcast accusing pro-European activists in Ukraine of being Nazi sympathizers.

The Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom tweeted a photo they claimed showed Syrian rebels receiving chemical weapons. It turned out the photo was from a video game called Command and Conquer.

And I could go on and on.

Problem is, no matter how much debunking gets done, the Kremlin keeps throwing out lies -- and many of them stick.


MH17 victims have filed a lawsuit against Russia and Vladimir Putin and are seeking $7.2 million (10 million Australian dollars) for each of the victims.

A French television station has exposed the fabrications in a recent broadcast by Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov.

Russian warplanes have bombed the road leading to rebel-held areas of Aleppo.

More than one hundred miners were trapped in a mine in the Krasnoyarsk region after a wall collapsed.


On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss the MH17 lawsuit and a French television station's take-down of chief Kremlin propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov with Pavel Butorin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time.


In case you missed the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Spooks and Crooks, a discussion about Russia's security services with Mark Galeotti and Edward Lucas, it's not too late to give it a listen.


Mobilizing The Masses

Andrew Monaghan has a new report out for Chatham House, Russian State Mobilization: Moving The Country Onto A War Footing.

"The term mobilizatsiya – 'mobilization' – features increasingly prominently in the Russian policy discussion. It describes a coordinated attempt on the part of the state to address an array of evolving security threats – in both narrow and broad senses – to Russia. In part, this reflects a widespread debate about the looming possibility, perhaps even inevitability, of war," Monaghan writes.

State-Sponsored Vigilantism

Novaya Gazeta's political editor Kirill Martinov writes that due to the rise in state-sanctioned vigilantism, Russia is losing one of the key attributes of statehood - a monopoly on force.

"We are moving toward a system of vassal dependencies," Martinov writes.
"You can only hope for physical security only if you are loyal to an influential lord. Otherwise, you can be declared an enemy and the force used against you will be considered completely acceptable.”

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Paul Goble has reviewed Martinov's article on his blog.

Extremism Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Vestnik Civitas notes that actual incidents of extremism are decreasing in Russia, but prosecutions for "extremism" are on the rise.

Oysters And RBC

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall looks at the story about oysters that many believe brought RBC down.

"Who would have thought that a story about oysters would have brought down a billionaire, his independent media group, and ignited a flurry of outrage in the Western papers about yet another attack by the Putin regime on a free press. Mikhail Prokhorov’s RBC media empire is certainly being emasculated, but what about the oysters that caused the upset?" Open Wall writes.

Prokhorov's Quest

Ilya Zhegulev has a meaty feature for Meduza on Mikhail Prokhorov's failed efforts to remake Russian media and politics.

"It has been exactly eight years since Prokhorov last experienced a drastic change in his professional life, when he divided his assets with Vladimir Potanin, a former business partner, and plunged into politics and news reporting," Zhegulev writes.

"By 2016, all Prokhorov's political projects have ended. As for his news enterprises, their destiny remains unclear."

Diaspora Putinists

Euromaidan Press takes a look at Putinists among Russia's diaspora in the West.

The Crisis Of The West

Writing in The American Interest, Damir Marusic looks at the crisis the West's politics are enduring, and Russia's role in it.

"We’ve made no secret here at The American Interest that we believe Russia to be serious threat to the U.S.-led world order," Marusic writes.

"We have pointed out time and again when we've thought weak or short-sighted leadership, coming from both Brussels and Washington, has played into Putin's opportunistic hands.

"And we’re not about to dismiss the effects that Russian money and messaging is having on the margins of European politics.

"Marine Le Pen’s Front National did indeed receive generous financing for its campaigns in 2014, and there are indications that various other parties across the continent are getting similar (if much smaller) bundles of aid. But at the same time, it’s would be a big mistake to overstate the case."

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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