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The Morning Vertical, October 23, 2017


As I wrote on The Power Vertical blog last week (featured below), one of the most interesting and important dynamics to watch in the coming months will be the interaction between Ksenia Sobchak and Aleksei Navalny.

And now we have our first data point.

Speaking to supporters in Astrakhan this weekend, just hours after being released from a 20-day jail sentence for organizing unauthorized protests, Navalny addressed Sobchak's decision to run for president, saying: “everybody has a right to participate in the elections” and “run for office.“

Navalny added that he likes some candidates "more and some less" than others.

While not exactly a ringing endorsement, the comments are a far cry from Navalny's early derisive reaction to a potential Sobchak candidacy.

This, of course, comes after Sobchak's statement that she would withdraw her candidacy in the unlikely event that Navalny is allowed on the ballot.

In his first video message to supporters since his release (featured below), Navalny did not address the subject of Sobchak's candidacy at all, but instead focused on why he continues to protest against Vladimir Putin's regime.

What all this suggests to me is that the Navalny and Sobchak camps are probably talking to each other.

And if they can find a way to cooperate -- with Sobchak on the ballot and Navalny on the outside -- the potential to disrupt the Kremlin's narrative in the next election can be powerful.

Putin will not be defeated, but that isn't the point. Presidential elections are legitimization rituals for the Kremlin -- and if Sobchak and Navalny can steal and spoil the show, it could prove to be a devastating blow.


Russian and U.S. defense chiefs will join Association of Southeast Asian Nations counterparts today to discuss threats related to terrorism and North Korea’s weapons program at meetings in the Philippines.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny addressed supporters in the southern city of Astrakhan hours after his release from a Moscow detention center following a 20-day term served for organizing unsanctioned protests against President Vladimir Putin.

NATO would not be able to rebuff a potential Russian attack on its eastern flank, according to an internal report cited on October 20 by German weekly Der Spiegel.

Russia has formally handed over six MiG-29 fighter jets to Serbia, as part of ceremonies marking the World War II liberation of Belgrade.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to push for legislation creating an anticorruption court by the end of the year, in an apparent response to demands from Western allies as well as protesters camped outside parliament in Kyiv.

Several hundred people took part in a protest rally in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on October 21 to condemn hazing in the armed forces.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looks at the growing pains of Ukraine's Third Revolution.


And the latest Power Vertical blog post looks at the significance of the political relationship between Aleksei Navalny and Ksenia Sobchak.


Navalny Speaks

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has put out his first video message to supporters since being released from a 20-day jail sentence for organizing unauthorized protests. (And no, he doesn't talk about Ksenia Sobchak's presidential campaign.)

The Sobchak Campaign

According to a report in RBK, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev, head of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies, will write Sobchak's economic platform.

Youth And Soviet Symbolism

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Sashin looks at the selective "mining of Soviet symbols" at the recent youth festival in Sochi.

The Gender Gap

According to a recent poll by the Levada Center, 53 percent of Russians say they do not want a woman to be president. And according to a new poll by the Kremlin-controlled VTsIOM, 60 percent have a negative opinion of Ksenia Sobchak.

The Moscow That Was

The Moscow Times has a piece looking back at the hallmarks of life from the Russian capital in the wild '90s

Why Putin Wants To Control Ukraine

In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum explains why Putin wants to control Ukraine.

How The Kremlin Has Exploited U.S. Racial Tensions

In The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe looks at Soviet and Russian efforts to exploit and exacerbate racial tensions in the United States.

Family Values

Kommersant has a piece on how the Russian Orthodox Church is attempting to get courses on family values into the school curriculum.

Russia In The Balkans

In Vedomosti, military historian Konstantin Gaivoronsky looks at the problems that have historically plagued Russian foreign policy in the Balkans.

Open Russia Report: Rebuilding Security In Europe

MIkhail Khodorkovsky's Open Russia Foundation has released a report: Rebuilding Security In Europe. The report is based on a roundtable of experts held in Prague on June 8-9, 2017.

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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