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The Morning Vertical, November 16, 2016


The bribery case against Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev is bizarre on many levels. The very notion that Ulyukayev could threaten and demand a bribe from the state-controlled oil giant Rosneft -- a company run by Igor Sechin, one of Russia's most powerful figures, who has close ties to Vladimir Putin -- is patently absurd. As some commentators have pointed out, anybody who threatens Sechin shouldn't be arrested -- they should be committed.

Moreover, the case is tied to the so-called privatization of the Bashneft oil company -- a strange kind of "privatization" in which a state-controlled company, Rosneft, is buying a state-owned company, Bashneft. The final call on that deal belonged to Putin himself. So it is unclear what kind of influence Ulyukayev was selling here.

On top of it all, the size of the alleged bribe, a paltry $2 million, is pocket change for a Russian minister.

This case defies normal logic. Except in Russian politics, normal logic does not apply. As opposition leader Aleksei Navalny notes in a video featured below, as a result of Ulyukayev's arrest -- the first sitting minister arrested in decades -- the Russian elite, particularly the liberal and technocratic wings of the elite, is now gripped by fear. And that is likely the point.

And oh, by the way, as I write this, Russian law enforcement is carrying out a search of the offices of the state corporation Rosnano, which is run by Anatoly Chubais.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev, whose arrest on charges of large-scale bribe taking has jolted Russia's ruling elite.

Russian media is reporting that as many as seven more people could be implicated in the Ulyukayev bribery case.

Russian law enforcement conducted a search of the offices of the state corporation Rosnano.

A United Nations panel has condemned human rights abuses in Crimea and pressed Russia to allow UN monitors to visit the Ukrainian territory it annexed in 2014.

The lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has for the first time said the simmering conflict in Ukraine should be considered an international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin has issued a decree withdrawing Russia from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for Washington’s "resolute countering Russian aggression," as he and President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone for the first time since the U.S. election.

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, has warned President-elect Donald Trump against softening U.S. policy toward Russia, saying any "reset" of relations would be a dangerous move.

Senator Lindsay Graham, meanwhile, says he wants Senate hearings to investigate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the U.S. election.

NATO wants dialogue with Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of talks with EU defense ministers in Brussels.

Japan and Russia say they will speed up their efforts to enhance economic cooperation ahead of a visit to Tokyo by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- despite the sacking of Russia's economic development minister.

Russia's security service says it has detained five suspects with ties to Islamic State who were plotting to carry out attacks in the country.

Russia says jets from its aircraft carrier have launched their first strikes on Syria.

Ukrainian authorities locked down central Kyiv on November 15 as hundreds of demonstrators protested outside government buildings over poor economic conditions and rising prices for vital necessities such as natural gas and bread.


The Ulyukayev Case

Meduza tells us five things we need to know about the arrest of Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.

Meduza also has a profile of the FSB general who led the investigation in the case.

Moscow Times columnist Boris Grozovsky weighs in, calling Ulyukayev's arrest a "tectonic convulsion for the Russian government."

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky notes that Ulyukayev's arrest doesn't fit the pattern of recent corruption cases.

Writing in Politico, Anna Nemtsova writes that the arrest could indicate an escalated clan war in the Kremlin.

In a piece for the Moscow Carnegie Center's website, political analyst Konstantin Gaaze looks at how the case illustrates the power of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin.

And finally, opposition leader and anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny weighs in on the case in an entertaining video.

The Hacking Must Go On

Josh Meyer has a piece for NBC News looking at Russia's hacking attack against the United States on November 9 that targeted "people who are or will be associated with the incoming U.S. administration."

Ukrainian Jitters

In his column for Bloomberg, Marc Champion takes a granular look at Ukraine's prospects with Trump in the White House.

Classifying Crimea

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group looks at the recent report by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which classified the situation in Crimea as an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The Kremlin's Trojan Horses

The Atlantic Council will release its new report, The Kremlin's Trojan Horses, in Washington at 09:00 EST today. The report examines Russian influence operations in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. For those not in Washington, you can watch the webcast here.

NOTE TO READERS: The Morning Vertical and other Power Vertical products will not appear on November 17 due to a Czech public holiday. All Power Vertical products will return on November 18.

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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