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The Power Vertical

Tuesday 24 October 2017

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.

Your daily roundup.

ON MY MIND

According to a report in Russky Monitor (featured below), State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has been pushing a plan to create a new Russian State Council that would become the country's primary executive body.

According the the report, the plan would be to make Vladimir Putin the head of the council, effectively turning him into Russia's supreme ruler for life.

The report is weakly sourced (as Paul Goble notes on his blog, also featured below). But it nevertheless is consistent with earlier reports predicting that a postpresidential office would be established for Putin to assure his continued rule (most notably, in Yevgeny Minchenko's latest Politburo 2.0 report).

If the State Council plan were really being floated, it would also reflect the fears many in the Russian elite have of instability once Putin does pass from the scene (or, as I wrote on The Power Vertical blog recently, during an extended period in which Putin were effectively a lame duck).

The fears of a post-Putin world reflect the fact that you truly do need to go back to the Stalin period to find a Russian regime that is so centered on -- and dependent upon -- one individual.

In another piece featured below, M. Steven Fish writes that "Putinism’s greatest liability may be its thoroughgoing personalism and lack of foundations that transcend the individual leader." Fish concludes by asking: "Would Putin’s passing prompt a power struggle -- perhaps even violence? Who would the parties to that struggle even be? For all Putin’s painstaking preoccupation with stability and continuity, Russians have no idea who will rule them tomorrow if their leader dies tonight. Putin himself might not know, either."

IN THE NEWS

Russian journalist Tatyana Felgengauer, a deputy editor in chief and program host of the liberal Ekho Moskvy radio station, has been assaulted and stabbed in the station's offices in the center of Moscow. Felgengauer was rushed into surgery following the October 23 attack, after which she was placed in a medically induced coma.

About a dozen conservative Russian Orthodox protesters have prayed outside St. Petersburg's famed Mariinsky Theater to protest the showing of a film depicting an affair between a teenaged ballerina and the future Tsar Nicholas II.

A Russian soldier has killed four of his colleagues at a base in Chechnya before being shot dead, the National Guard said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow respects the aspiration of Iraqi Kurds to seek to assert their identity, but added that this must be done in "dialogue" with the federal government in Baghdad.

The former president of Russia's Basketball Federation has been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in a penal colony for embezzling 44 million rubles ($765,000), Russian news agencies reported.

Ukrainian anticorruption investigators have raided the home and office of the mayor of the Black Sea port of Odesa, who is at the center of an embezzlement probe.

A self-exiled Azerbaijani opposition journalist has appealed a Ukrainian court’s decision to keep him jailed while authorities in Kyiv determine whether he should be extradited to Baku.

WHAT I'M READING

The Attack On Tatyana Felgengauer

Meduza has a reconstruction of the knife attack on Ekho Moskvy journalist Tatyana Felgengauer.

Meduza also editorialized on the attack.

Oliver Carroll has a piece in The Independent looking at how carefully planned and executed the attack was.

Two weeks before the attack, Russian state television ran a segment accusing Ekho Moskvy of colluding with foreign powers and naming Felgengauer

Trolls, Bots, And Votes

OpenDemocracy looks at possible Russian links to the Brexit campaign.

In BuzzFeed, James Ball looks at how "a suspected network of 13,000 Twitter bots pumped out pro-Brexit messages in the run-up to the EU vote."

And Nick Cohen follows up with a commentary in The Guardian

In Think Progress, Casey Michel takes a closer look at a mysterious Florida company tied to Russian propaganda websites.

Putin Forever

Russky Monitor has a piece claiming that State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is pushing a project to create a Russian State Council and for Vladimir Putin to be installed as its head, effectively making him ruler for life.

As former State Department official and veteran Kremlin-watcher Paul Goble notes on his blog, "without clear sourcing, it is difficult to know how much credence to give this report." But it does appear to point to the anxiety in the Russian elite that would accompany Putin effectively becoming a lame duck following the 2018 election.

Financing Russian Theaters

The Russian branch of Transparency International has released a report on the financing of Russia's state-run theaters and the resulting conflicts of interest.

Turkey's 'Near Abroad'

The Daily Sabah looks at Turkey's delicate balancing act between Russia and Ukraine in its 'near abroad'

Why Putin Would Like To Forget 2017

In the Financial Times, Tony Barber explains why 2017 is a year Vladimir Putin would rather forget.

Parsing Putinism

The Journal of Democracy has a series of pieces under the rubric: The Kremlin Emboldened. Among the articles in the series, M. Steven Fish, a professor of political science at the University of California-Berkeley, asks What Is Putinism? and Vladimir Kara-Murza explains that Putin Is Not Russia.

Denial About The Neighborhood

Andreas Umland of the Kyiv-based Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation has a piece on the Kennan Institute's Focus Ukraine page in which he argues that Central and Eastern European leaders are in "widespread denial of some plain geographic facts" about the security of European Partnership countries like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

The Corporate State

In Novoye Vremya-The New Times, Dmitry Butrin argues that Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin's moves to dominate Russia's energy sector are a sign that Russia is becoming a corporate state.

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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

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