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ON MY MIND

So it appears that Igor Sechin played chicken with a Russian court -- and the court blinked.

Four times, a Moscow court summoned the Rosneft CEO to testify in the corruption trial of former Economics Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev. And four times Sechin, a longtime crony of President Vladimir Putin, flat out refused to appear.

And yesterday, the court just gave up. It refused a request from Ulyukayev's defense team to summon Sechin and moved the case to closing arguments.

Ulyukayev, of course, is on trial for allegedly extorting a $2 million bribe from Sechin in exchange for approving Rosneft's acquisition of a majority stake in the oil company Bashneft.

Ulyukayev claims he was framed by Sechin and wants to face him in court. And now it is clear that he won't get his chance.

This is significant because the Ulyukayev case and the Bashneft privatization it stems from are clearly part of a larger and complex struggle among Kremlin clans.

And in that struggle, the court that will decide Ulyukayev's fate is nothing more than a sideshow and a prop.

The only court that matters in Russia is the court of Vladimir Putin. And the court of Putin has apparently ruled that Sechin can play chicken with a lower ordinary court -- and get away with it.

IN THE NEWS

The man who authored landmark reports on doping in Russian sports said that the country is risking heavier punishment by continuing to deny the state's involvement in the doping scheme.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry says one Ukrainian soldier was killed and two were wounded in the previous 24 hours as Russia-backed separatists shelled government positions in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

The U.S. State Department said that a new law allowing Russia's Justice Ministry to brand foreign-media outlets as "foreign agents" poses a threat to press freedom and urged Moscow not to use the measure to tighten control over the media.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed Washington's commitment to European security, especially as Russia continues what he called its "aggressive behavior."

A Russian court has refused to impound four German-made power turbines that ended up in Russia-annexed Crimea, dismissing a lawsuit filed by industrial giant Siemens to block what it contended was an illegal transfer.

A Russian court has refused to call Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin to testify in a bribery trial against former Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia violated the rights of a man who was jailed in connection with a protest on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration to his current term.

Voicing concern over the "acute demographic situation in Russia," President Vladimir Putin has announced that the state will pay parents allowances for 18 months after they have their first child.

The world governing board for soccer has unveiled the official poster for next year's World Cup finals in Moscow featuring a vintage design of Soviet goalkeeping great Lev Yashin in flight.

Talks aimed at resolving the conflict over Moldova's separatist region of Transdniester have made "substantial progress," according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

WHAT I'M READING

Fears Of Anti-Semitism?

In Yezednevny Zhurnal, Aleksandr Golts comments on recent remarks by Bishop Tikhon, who is sometimes referred to as Putin’s spiritual adviser, and what they reveal about the revival of anti-Semitism in Russia.

Communist Party Splits

Kommersant and Nezavisimaya Gazeta have pieces looking at divisions inside the Communist Party, which is still undecided whether to nominate Gennady Zyuganov for president or to go with a fresh face.

The Kremlin's Bellicose Rhetoric

In Sobesednik, political commentator Stanislav Belkovsky looks at the increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin.

Uniting The 'DNR' And 'LNR'

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia has a piece assessing the likelihood that the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" will unify.

Spilling The Beans

In his column for Moskovsky Komsomolets (that inspired today's Daily Vertical), Mikhail Rostovsky comments on reports from the Russian state news agency TASS that Putin will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May. As Rostovsky notes, this implies that the presidential election scheduled for March is nothing more than a formality.

Kadyrov Sends A Message

In a commentary for Al-Jazeera, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague weighs in on Ramzan Kadyrov's latest hints that he may step down as Chechnya's leader.

The Infowars Skills Gap

On the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis, Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, looks at the "infowar skills gap."

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 Follow @PowerVertical

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