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The Morning Vertical, May 3, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

On one hand, the Moscow authorities' unwillingness to investigate last week's zelyonka chemical attack against opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is a sign of approval.

After all, Internet sleuths have already made a convincing case that the culprits are South-East Russian Bloc, or SERB, a pro-Kremlin activist group. (See Kevin Rothrock's piece in GlobalVoices on the subject, featured in yesterday's Morning Vertical.)

But as Vedomosti notes in an editorial featured below, the attack on Navalny, other assaults on opposition figures, and the authorities' response to these attacks illustrate something else as well: As it outsources its attacks on the opposition, Vladimir Putin's regime is giving up its monopoly on the organized use of violence.

The Kremlin is effectively waging a hybrid war against the opposition.

And as several reports illustrate, it involves some of the same people who were involved in the early stages of the hybrid war on Ukraine.

Aleksandr Petrunko, the man identified as a SERB activist involved in the attack on Navalny, also participated in a failed attempt to take over the Kharkiv regional administration in April 2014. (See Halya Coynash's piece featured in yesterday's Morning Vertical.)

Using proxies in eastern Ukraine didn't exactly work out as the Kremlin had planned. And sooner or later, the Kremlin may come to regret opening a similar Pandora's box at home.

IN THE NEWS

Russia has succeeded in sowing political discord in the United States by interfering in the 2016 presidential election, which will likely prompt Moscow to try it again, two former top U.S. intelligence figures say.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has blamed her defeat in the 2016 presidential election on Russia and FBI Director James Comey, saying that their interference "scared off" voters.

A Russian military adviser, Lieutenant Colonel Aleksei Buchelnikov, was killed by a sniper in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.

The Kremlin has confirmed that Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on May 17.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says he is filing official complaints contending that Moscow police are not investigating an attack against him.

Moscow police say they are investigating reports that fragments of bodies of Kyrgyz citizens were found in a dumpster in the Russian capital.

Russia has kicked off the trial in abstentia of a prominent New York real-estate developer and former Guggenheim Museum board member who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds to fuel her lavish lifestyle.

Putin has signed a law banning a wide range of unconventional names for newborns.

WHAT I'M READING

The Kremlin's Middleman

Re:baltica has an investigative piece looking at the Latvian financier who is believed to have acted as the conduit between Marine Le Pen and the Kremlin.

Inside The Black Box

Maksim Alyukov of the European University of St. Petersburg has a piece in OpenDemocracy on how Russian television programs are made.

The Medvedev Signal

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a piece in BNE IntelliNews on how Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's fate will be a signal about Putin's intentions.

Parsing The Putin-Trump Call

Galeotti also has a short video giving his snap take on yesterday's phone call between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

And in The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe writes that the call was "disappointing" for Putin.

Parsing The Putin-Merkel Meeting

Kommersant peeks behind the curtain of Putin's meeting with Angela Merkel in Sochi.

Russia's War On Europe

In Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at the current state of Russia's information war in Europe.

The Calculus Of Repression

Samuel Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London and author of the book Moscow In Movement: Power And Opposition In Putin’s Russia, has an op-ed in The Moscow Times on Putin's "repression calculus" in the face of mounting protests.

Vigilante Patriots

In an editorial, Vedomosti looks at the recent chemical attack on Aleksei Navalny and other assaults on opposition members and asks whether the state is losing its monopoly on violence.

Putin's Grand Strategy

Andy Akin, an assistant professor of national security studies at the USAF’s eSchool of Graduate PME, has a piece in The Washington Post looking at Putin's "grand strategy."

Victims Of Chechnya's War On Gays

The Associated Press has a piece on gay men, now living in Moscow safe houses, who fled torture in Chechnya.

Five Faces Of May Day

Writing on his blog Window On Eurasia, veteran Kremlin-watcher Paul Goble looks at five protest actions that took place on the May Day holiday.

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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