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The Morning Vertical, November 22, 2016


Three years ago, everything seemed possible. Three years ago, ordinary Ukrainians gathered on Kyiv's Independence Square to demand a better life and a more democratic, less corrupt, government. Three years ago, the Euromaidan was born. And it is worth remembering the "Euro" part. The popular uprising that eventually overthrew the corrupt and autocratic regime of Viktor Yanukovych was driven by a desire to be part of Europe. It was a genuine middle-class uprising in support of European values. The flags many of them were waving -- in addition to the Ukrainian flag -- was the flag of the European Union.

And it is also worth remembering -- especially in this age of Euroscepticism -- that the more than 100 protesters who were killed during during the Euromaidan, died for the values of Europe. They became, perhaps, the first people in history to die for the idea of Europe.


Russia says it will deploy surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems in the exclave of Kaliningrad in retaliation for NATO deployments.

And the U.S. says the move is destabilizing for Europe.

Moscow authorities have detained a political activist at an improvised memorial near the Kremlin where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was gunned down last year.

A Russian court has sentenced a man to 12 years in prison for being a member of the banned Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Ukraine's security service says it detained two soldiers along the administrative border with the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, and accused them of being deserters from the Ukrainian army.

Russian law-enforcement says two more suspected members of what they call a Ukrainian "saboteur group" have been arrested in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Russia's Yuliya Zaripova has been stripped of the gold medal she won in the women's 3,000-metеr steeplechase at the 2012 London Olympics.

Vandals have desecrated a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu.

Thousands of Ukrainians marked the third anniversary of the beginning of mass protests that ultimately ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and prompted Russia to annex the Crimea Peninsula and back an insurgency in the east.


Putin Eyes Paris

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that "Putin is winning the French election."

"While it's unclear how well Russian President Vladimir Putin will get along with Donald Trump and his team of Republican hawks, it looks as though he has already won the French presidential election," Bershidsky writes.

"The front-runner in the primary election of the French center-right, Francois Fillon, is nearly as enthusiastic a Russophile as Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, and the center-left hardly stands a chance in next year's presidential election."

Putin Eyes Washington

Vladimir Frolov has a piece in The Moscow Times on how Putin is hoping to gain geopolitical advantage from Trump's presidency

"Overall, Russia’s preliminary assessment of Trump’s emerging national security team is leaning toward weak and dysfunctional, compared to Moscow’s streamlined and instantaneous decision-making," Frolov writes.

"Having a JV team in Washington operating on false policy assumptions that generally align with Russia’s interests and objectives is net geopolitical gain for the Kremlin- or at least so it seems."

Meanwhile, William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute, has a commentary in Reuters on how Putin's friendship with Trump could turn out to be costly.

"If Trump truly is a dealmaker...Putin will have to sacrifice some of the core policies – anti-Americanism, economic protectionism – that have facilitated his consolidation of power," Pomeranz writes.

"New complexities to old problems also are likely to arise in any rapprochement with the United States, most notably in eastern Ukraine. Before Putin counts his winnings – which could be substantial – it is necessary to consider what the consequences of success might mean for him."

Putin's Siloviki International

Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has a piece in OpenDemocracy on how Russian security services collaborate with counterparts in other authoritarian regimes.

I also recommend Mark's new Facebook page on Russian affairs: @markgaleottionrussia.

New Report: Targeting Post-Soviet Dissidents Abroad

The London-based Foreign Policy Center released a report today titled: "No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union."

Adam Hug, the report's editor, says it "shines a spotlight onto the murky activities of these security services who flout national, European and international law to target dissidents abroad. It shows how exiles who remain inside the former Soviet Union are facing a constant risk to their safety but even in Western Europe they are not free from the long arm of the security services.”

The findings will be discussed at a launch event in the UK Houses of Parliament at 18:00 London time on November 22.

Mourning A 'Lost' Past

Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Russian journal Neprikosnovennyi Zapas, writes in OpenDemocracy that "post-Soviet people have spent two decades mourning a society that never existed."

The State Department And RT

On the War on the Rocks blog, Matt Armstrong, a governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors and author of the blog MountainRunner, weighs in on the recent combative exchange between State Department spokesman John Kirby and a representative of the Kremlin-directed media outlet RT.

European Defense Strategy

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, has a short piece up on the Center for European Policy Analysis website on European defense planning.

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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