ON MY MIND
He's lorded over the Kremlin for more than 17 years.
He's crafted an image as Russia's indispensable man.
And few doubt that he will seek and win a fourth term as president in March.
But Vladimir Putin turns 65 this weekend and the growing sense in Moscow is that his next term will be his last.
So what happens when Russia's indispensable man becomes the Kremlin's lame duck?
On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll look at the next phase of the Putin era and the potential for clan warfare as the elite prepares for what comes next.
Joining me will be veteran journalist Kiryl Sukhotski, executive editor for RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time, and Mikhail Fishman, a political analyst and anchor at Dozhd-TV.
Also on the podcast, Kiryl, Mikhail, and I will look ahead to the protests opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has planned for Putin's birthday.
So be sure to tune in later today!
IN THE NEWS
Media reports say hackers backed by the Russian government stole highly sensitive U.S. espionage tools in 2015 after a U.S. National Security Agency contractor placed the classified materials on his home computer.
Media reports say U.S. investigators have interviewed Christopher Steele, a former British spy who compiled a salacious dossier of allegations about purported contacts between U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's election campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, has been sentenced to 20 days in jail, hours after an appeals court threw out an initial order for his incarceration.
Russian officials say a train has slammed into a bus at a railway crossing east of Moscow, killing at least 19 people -- many of them apparently citizens of Uzbekistan.
Federal Security Service Director Aleksandr Bortnikov says Russia's main security agency has identified four Russian citizens suspected of organizing a wave of anonymous bomb threats that have prompted mass evacuations across the country.
Russia's Defense Ministry has drafted legislation to ban social-media posts by professional military personnel on security grounds.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the Western alliance is assessing whether Russia has pulled out all the troops it sent to Belarus for joint exercises last month that were watched warily by neighbors.
Vladimir Putin has hosted Saudi King Salman for talks at the Kremlin, in the first official visit to Russia by a reigning Saudi monarch.
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning Russian verdicts against dozens of Crimeans who opposed Moscow's seizure of the peninsula and demanding the release of those who are behind bars.
A memorial to the protesters killed by security forces in February 2014 in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, was destroyed on October 5. A suspect was later detained.
Ukraine has expelled a Russian TV journalist whom the country's main security agency accused of delivering "deceitful, anti-Ukrainian" reports from areas in eastern Ukraine that are held by Russia-backed separatists.
WHAT I'M READING
Book Review: Anton Shekhovtsov's Russia And The Western Far Right: Tango Noir
Moscow-based journalist Bradley Jardine reviews Anton Shekhovtsov's new book Russia And The Western Far RIght: Tango Noir for Coda.
Changing Tactics In Ukraine
In an editorial, The Economist explains Vladimir Putin's offer to allow UN peacekeepers in the Donbas and why Russia may be changing its tactics in Ukraine.
And Deutsche Welle looks at Ukraine's changing tactics in the Donbas.
Defense Spending And Growth
Vedomosti has a piece on a new report by Aleksei Kudrin, the former finance minister who now heads the Center for Strategic Research, and Aleksandr Knobel, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for International Trade Research. The report argues that defense spending is stifling growth in Russia's domestic economy.
Kadyrov Hearts Poklonskaya
Gazeta.ru has a piece looking at the emerging political alliance between Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and State Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Christian Caryl argues that "Russia's culture wars look a lot like America's."
The Kremlin's Black Cash
In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at how Russia's black cash is corrupting the West.
A King Comes To Moscow
Yury Barmin of the Russian International Affairs Council has an op-ed in The Moscow Times looking at what is behind Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz's visit to Moscow.
Is It Putin? Or Is It Navalny?
The Insider has published a quiz asking readers to identify whether Vladimir Putin or Aleksei Navalny made a series of statements.