The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.
The Power Vertical
Thursday 1 February 2018
ON MY MIND
Vladimir Putin's regime sure is expending a lot of energy on someone it claims not to be worried about.
Earlier this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not consider opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to be a threat.
Days later, an estimated 371 Navalny supporters who participated in demonstrations across Russia over the weekend in support of an election boycott were detained. Some 120 of them were fined or handed short jail sentences.
Among those jailed were Ruslan Shaveddinov, who hosts video programs on Navalny's YouTube channel, and Kira Yarmysh, Navalny's press secretary. Both were detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on January 30.
In his remarks about Navalny, Peskov said: "I don't think anybody can doubt that Putin is the absolute leader of public opinion, the absolute leader of the political Olympus...with whom it is unlikely that anyone can seriously compete with at this stage."
Certainly not in the stage-managed event scheduled for March 18 that the Kremlin calls an election. The result of the vote is a foregone conclusion.
But the Kremlin appears spooked by Navalny's ability to spoil the big show and to troll the regime's legitimization ritual.
And in the bigger picture, in the Russia beyond March 18, the Kremlin is clearly worried about Navalny despite Peskov's protestations to the contrary.
IN THE NEWS
A Russian court has convicted former Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh of taking bribes after a politically charged trial of the prominent liberal politician.
The world's top sports court has overturned lifetime Olympic bans for 39 Russian athletes in a blow to the International Olympic Committee's policy following the Russian sports-doping scandal.
Russia's United Nations envoy says his country does not believe Washington has made a sufficient case that Iran has supplied missiles to Yemen’s Huthi rebels, indicating he would oppose increased sanctions against Tehran.
The directors of Russia's three main intelligence and espionage agencies all traveled to the U.S. capital in recent days, in what observers said was a highly unusual occurrence coming at a time of heightened U.S.-Russian tensions.
A Moscow court has sentenced a prominent associate of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny to eight days in jail on charges of participating in an illegal demonstration.
Vladimir Putin has signed a decree naming the 23rd fighter aviation regiment the "Tallinn" regiment, after the capital of neighboring Estonia.
Putin has awarded Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic the Order of Friendship, a state medal he bestows upon several foreigners every year.
Putin has also urged Russian athletes to ignore doping scandals when they compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The Oxford Dictionaries' initiative known as Oxford Global Languages has added the Tatar language to its online list as the first Turkic language to be added to the program.
A Russian Agriculture Ministry official has warned that locusts could cause problems when Russia hosts the soccer World Cup later this year.
Human Rights Watch has awarded a Russian and a Saudi activist for their "courageous and tireless" work in advocating human rights.
A Moscow math instructor accused of trying to spark riots with Internet posts including a Kanye West rap video has been released from house arrest but still faces charges.
Police in Moscow have questioned an independent journalist who came under fire from the state last year over an article about a Russian man who joined Islamist militants in Syria.
Independent Ukraine's first man in space, Leonid Kadenyuk, has died at the age of 67.
The Ukrainian government has fired tax and customs service chief Roman Nasirov, who was suspended from the post after his arrest on suspicion of embezzlement in March 2017.
WHAT I'M READING
The State Of The (Eurasian) Union
In Coda, Joshua Kucera looks at the state of the Eurasian Union.
The EU's Eastern Dilemma
Tony van der Togt looks at the European Union's dilemma of balancing interests and values in the Eastern Partnership.
CSIS has a report on Russia's electronic warfare capabilities to 2025.
In The Kyiv Post, British defense expert Glen Grant explains How Ukraine can build an army to beat Putin.
The Meddling Meme
On the Kennan Institute's Russia File blog, Maxim Trudolyubov looks at Russian election meddling "as a meme."
Size Doesn't Matter (In Cyber Espionage)
In Foreign Policy, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague plays off reports that Dutch intelligence hacked into the Russian hacking group Cozy Bear’s systems back in 2014 and argues that in the world of cyberespionage, small countries can play an outsized role.
The Russia-NATO Balance
Aleksandr Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis in Moscow, has a report on the website of the Carnegie Center for International Peace on the military balance between Russia and NATO.
About This Blog
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 Follow @PowerVertical