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ON MY MIND

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the police should crack down on them. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky calls them "sectarian arsonists." And the newspaper Vedomosti has asked why Patriarch Kirill has been silent about them.

The growing extremism of Orthodox Christian activists (see pieces featured below), most notably the threats from a group ominously calling itself "Christian State" against theaters showing the film Matilda, was entirely predictable.

Since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin, his regime has encouraged, manipulated, and utilized the most nationalist, xenophobic, and nativist elements in society for political gain.

It was just a matter of time before some of them went rogue.

But although the Kremlin claims to be shocked -- shocked! -- and appalled about the emergence of radical groups like Christian State, it is also likely to try and use the phenomenon to its advantage.

What better opportunity, after all, for the Putin regime to present itself as a moderate voice of reason -- just in time for election season.

IN THE NEWS

Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO's eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.

Belarus says the exercises won’t violate international agreements, amid Western concerns about the war games.

A series of anonymous bomb threats that have been reported across Russia over the past four days has reached the capital, Moscow.

Aleksandr Lapshin, a Russian-Israeli blogger who was jailed in Baku for traveling to Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region has left Baku on a flight to Israeli, three days after receiving a pardon from President Ilham Aliyev.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian officials made direct proposals to Washington about full normalization of ties between the two countries following President Donald Trump’s election, but nothing came of it.

Peskov also said police should crack down on "extremists" trying to prevent the screening of a controversial film based on an early romantic liaison of Russian Tsar Nicholas II.

Democratic lawmakers say they're investigating whether U.S. President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, secretly promoted a U.S.-Russian project to build dozens of nuclear reactors in the Middle East.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has dismissed all but one of the first 96 Russian doping cases referred to the agency by sports federations, media report.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Russia’s Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

Russian opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov has been briefly detained by Moscow police while protesting in front of the State Duma, Russia's lower chamber of parliament.

Mikheil Saakashvili has told a rally in western Ukraine that he had returned to the country to help solve the country’s “political crisis” and that he intends to travel to Kyiv next week.

WHAT I'M READING

Orthodox Radicals

Ekho Moskvy has published two blogs (here and here) exposing how a group calling itself "Christian State" has been sending letters threatening cinema owners who show the film Matilda.

Otkritaya Rossia has published an interview with the leader of "Christian State," Aleksandr Kalinin.

Vedomost has published an editorial on the increased radicalization of Russian Orthodox activists, asking, "Why Is Patriarch Kirill Silent?"

Let The War Games Begin

Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and The New York Times have pieces looking at the Zapad 2017 military exercises, which begin today.

Weaponized Smugglers

BuzzFeed has a piece on how Russia is using cigarette smugglers for intelligence and espionage operations in Estonia.

Weaponized Media

The New York Times has a piece by Jim Rutenberg on "RT, Sputnik and Russia's New Theory of War."

Corrupt Siloviki

Ilya Rozhdestvensky has a piece in Republic.ru on how Yevgeny Murov, the former head of Russia's Federal Protection Service, managed to monetize his office.

Disinformation Database

The European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force has unveiled a new website, featuring a searchable database of Russian disinformation in Europe.

Is Ukraine Losing It's Way?

On her blog for Carnegie Europe, Judy Dempsey asks the experts about the conflict between Petro Poroshenko and Mikheil Saakashvili and what it reveals about the state of Ukrainian democracy.

Elections And Kremlin Court Politics

Anna Nemtsova has a piece in The Daily Beast arguing that "as Moscow votes against Putin, his cronies turn on each other."

And in his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky writes that "Putin has an enthusiasm problem."

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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