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The Power Vertical

Tuesday 20 March 2018

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The Daily Vertical: Meet The New Tsar, Same As The Old Tsar
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The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

The Daily Vertical is a video primer for Russia-watchers that appears Monday through Friday. Viewers can suggest topics via Twitter @PowerVertical or on the Power Vertical Facebook page.

A transcript of today's Daily Vertical can be found here.


Yesterday's tweetstorm by RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan was revealing for a number of reasons.

As I note in today's Daily Vertical, in conjunction with Russia's military exercises in occupied Crimea, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, it appears to indicate that Moscow's confrontational line with the West will continue.

But Simonyan's tweets also suggest something about Russian domestic politics. The era of pretend (or "managed" or "sovereign") democracy is over.

Russia is moving toward something else.

"Earlier he was simply our president and it was possible to replace him. And now he is our leader," she wrote in one post, using the Russian word "vozhd" -- which is often associated with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

As I noted in this space yesterday, Putin has a big choice to make.

He can either make it clear that he intends to remain in power, one way or another, for the foreseeable future. Or he can effectively turn into a lame duck.

Are Simonyan's tweets a sign that he is leaning toward the former?


Russia has blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria, prompting an angry response from other UN members.

Diplomats expelled by Britain in retaliation for Russia's alleged poisoning of an ex-spy planned to board a flight for Moscow on March 20 as Britain's National Security Council was due to discuss possible new measures against Russia over the incident.

Putin is not scheduled to meet with 23 Russian diplomats who have been ordered out of Britain in response to the poisoning of a former spy with a deadly nerve agent, the Kremlin spokesman has said.

A Facebook executive who strongly pushed for investigation and disclosure of Russian activities on the site allegedly aimed at influencing elections will reportedly leave the company in August.

Russian armed forces have launched large-scale military exercises in southern parts of the country and in occupied Crimea and the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has sentenced a member of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization to eight years in prison on extremism charges.

A court in Russia's Tatarstan region has fined poet Lilia Gazizova for tearing a ballot at a polling station during the March 18 presidential election.

Vladimir Putin has softened his rhetoric toward the West after winning a fourth term as Russia's president in a landslide victory the United States said it expected and international observers chided for giving voters no "real choice."

EU foreign ministers and the head of NATO have strongly condemned the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain, and offered London "solidarity" over the attack.

Six MiG-29 fighter jets that Russia donated to Serbia will have their first test flights and enter service by the end of the 2018, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said.


The Election In Numbers

Meduza looks at some of the surprising statistics from the March 18 vote (For example: Putin got less than 50 percent in 306 precincts nationwide -- and 100 percent in 205 precincts, Ksenia Sobchak got her best results from Russians voting abroad.)

Boycott Or Don't Boycott? It Didn't Matter

Writing in, political commentator Vladimir Pastukhov argues that none of the opposition strategies to undermine Putin's reelection worked.

Votes, But No Conviction

Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and author of the book Vory: Russia's Super Mafia, weighs in on Putin's re-coronation.

Russia's Worst Job

In The Moscow Times, political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya argues that Russia's next prime minister is in for a rough ride.

Victory For The Hawks

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that Putin's reelection margin was a victory for Russia's hawks.

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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