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The Morning Vertical, May 27, 2016


For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Just days after releasing Nadia Savchenko, a Russian court in Grozny sentenced two Ukrainians, Stanislav Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk, to decades in prison on dubious charges that they killed Russian soldiers while fighting with Chechen rebels in the 1990s.

After being seized, their whereabouts was kept secret -- for 10 months in Klykh’s case and 18 months in Karpyuk’s case.

They were allegedly tortured into confessing. And their convictions are largely based on the testimony of one person -- and that person is in prison and clearly subject to pressure from the Russian authorities.

The Russian human rights group Memorial has concluded, after reviewing the "evidence," that the case is a sham.

Anybody who thought that the release of Savchenko indicated a softening of Moscow's posture toward Ukraine should think again.

I address the case of Klykh and Karpyuk -- and the dozens of Ukrainian hostages still in captivity in Russia, on today's Daily Vertical.


Nadia Savchenko has said she would run for president if that is what the Ukrainian people want.

Vladimir Putin has approved the retirement of the head of the Federal Guard Service.

Putin has called for a renewal of ties with Europe ahead of a visit to Greece.

Russia says the release of Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko after nearly two years in captivity is unlikely to help improve Moscow's relations with the European Union.

Top EU politicians have said that Russia sanctions are likely to be extended as well.

But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says renewing sanctions against Russia will be more difficult than in the past.

Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky says he plans to give the money he'll receive from his Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent to a group of men jailed for a series of attacks against police.

Estonia's prime minister has called for a constant NATO troop presence to deter Russia.


Today's Must-Read Piece

If you read one piece today, you would do well to make it Yale University historian Timothy Snyder's brilliant essay in the New York Review of Books, "The Wars of Vladimir Putin."

In the process of reviewing three books -- Paweł Pieniążek's Pozdrowienia z Noworosji [Greetings from Novorossiya], Karl Schlögel's Entscheidung in Kiew. Ukrainische Lektionen [Decision in Kiev: Ukrainian Lessons], & Peter Pomeranzev's Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia -- Snyder puts the past two tumultuous years in Russia and Ukraine into context.

Here's a teaser: "How did Russia reach a point, in its media and politics, where the fact of Russian soldiers mistakenly shooting down a civilian airliner during a Russian invasion of a foreign country could be transformed into a durable sense of Russian victimhood? For that matter, how did Russians take so easily to the idea that Ukraine, seen as a fraternal nation, had suddenly become an enemy governed by "fascists"? How do Russians take pride in a Russian invasion while at the same time denying that one is taking place? Consider the dark joke now making the rounds in Russia. Wife to husband: 'Our son was killed in action in Ukraine.' Husband to wife: 'We never had a son.'"

Changing Of The Kremlin Guard

Is Yevgeny Murov's retirement as head of Russia's Federal Guard Service important. Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia's security services, thinks so. Check out his snap analysis here.

More On The Campaign For A Canadian Magnitsky Act

Writing in The Ottawa Star, human rights advocate Marcus Kolga argues that Canada needs a Magnitsky Act -- and criticizes the current government for not pushing for one.

Russia's Cult Of Victory

In an op-ed in The New York Times titled Russia's Sore Losers, Maxim Trudolyubov, editor-at-large for Vedomosti, looks at Russia's obsession with winning at all costs, and it's bitter reaction to losing.

"I went to school in the old Soviet Union, and it was as I went to university that Russia’s transition to a post-Soviet state occurred. The process was not pretty. We did feel perhaps that our country was diminished, but we worked hard and never felt humiliated," Trudolyubov writes. "Of course, there were some who did feel degraded, party officials or former K.G.B. agents probably among them, but at first they were not a dominating force. Since the turn of the century, however, that has changed. Those who were upset about their loss of status have used these years of rule to convert people to their creed."

The Russia-Saudi Conflict

Nikolay Pakhomov of the Russian International Affairs Council has a piece in The National Interest claiming that Russia and Saudi Arabia are headed for a showdown.

Rumors Of Putin's Demise

Writing on the Moscow Carnegie Center website, Andrei Kolesnikov asks how long the Putin regime can last.

"Some Russian experts are predicting that the current Russian regime will last another ten years. Change is inevitable, but no one can forecast what form it will take. In the short term, the trend is for inertia and no change," Kolesnikov writes.

Eurasian Disunion

Sijbren de Jong, a strategic analyst with The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, has a piece in the European Observer on why countries are reluctant to join Russia's Eurasian Union.

"Unless Russia’s leadership learns to understand that regional integration can only succeed on the basis of ties that bind, rather than creating binds that tie, the future of the EEU already looks doomed barely two years after it first saw the light," de Jong writes.

Mafias And States

The fusion of the state and organized crime has a precedent in Russia. According to historian Aleksei Teplyakov, such collaboration also characterized the early Soviet period.

Russia Through German Eyes

On the latest installment of the SRB Podcast, Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies explores how Russia looks through the eyes of Germans. Sean's guest is James Casteel, an assistant professor of German, Russian, and Jewish history in the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University.

The Future Of Russian Foreign Policy

Foreign affairs analyst Sergei Karaganov has an essay in the official Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on the next stage for Russian foreign policy.

What Ever Happened To The Women Of The Euromaidan

On The Atlantic Council's website, Josh Cohen, a former program officer with USAID, takes a look at what happened to the most high profile women of the Euromaidan, focusing on Olena Halushka, Kateryna Kruk, Oleksandra Ustinova, and Alya Shandra.

Fighting A Bridge With The Law

Can Ukraine use international law to prevent Russia from building a bridge across the Kerch Strait, linking Crimea to Russia? Writing on The Jamestown Foundation's website, Oleksandr Gavrylyuk explores the options.

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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