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Putin Shows His Hand

So, after a few weeks of speculation, we know who Vladimir Putin would like to see succeed him as President of the Russian Federation – and even by the debased ethical standards of the Putinocracy, the level of brazenness on … Read More

By / December 11, 2007

So, after a few weeks of speculation, we know who Vladimir Putin would like to see succeed him as President of the Russian Federation – and even by the debased ethical standards of the Putinocracy, the level of brazenness on show in the Russian capital over the last 24 hours has been quite breathtaking.

 

On Monday, Vlad announced that his favoured successor would be Dmitry Medvedev, his former chief of staff, who currently combines the role of chairman of Gazprom with being deputy PM. It was something of a surprise ‘appointment’, but Kremlinologists were generally positive; Medvedev is viewed as the most liberal of the candidates for the job both in terms of his approach to economic policy and, crucially, politically as well. And, at 42, he is a young and dynamic figure, which gave some hope to those who were worried that Putin would simply try to install a stooge in order to control things himself.

 

Unfortunately, those hopes are looking a little tarnished this morning, as up popped Medvedev on TV to share his thoughts on who he’d like to be his Prime Minister if elected, and – well, I wonder if you can guess

 

“I appeal to [President Putin] with a request to give his agreement in principle to head the Russian government after the election of the new president of our country," Mr Medvedev said on Russian television on Tuesday. 

 

"It's one thing to elect a president – it's no less important to maintain the efficiency of the team," he said.

I don’t know what the Russian is for “reacharound”, but that’s pretty much what we’re watching. And the same factor that analysts had identified as a hopeful sign yesterday – Medvedev’s lack of any links with the state security apparatus, including the FSB – may in fact be one of the attractions for Putin in picking him.

 

It’s widely expected that Putin will continue to exert strong influence over the security services and the military, and he’s been quite open about his intention to remain as a back seat driver even once he steps down. Moreover, his cronies occupy most of the central positions in Russian political and economic life, from oil companies through TV stations to regional governorships. Without a strong power base, and with no political experience to speak of, Medvedev may well prove to be the puppet that conventional wisdom suggests is his fate, even if he does win next March – as now seems overwhelmingly likely.

 

Still, it’s not all bad news. Medvedev recently gave an interview to a Russian magazine in which he revealed that as a feckless youth he rebelled against Soviet oppression in pretty much the only way a Russian schoolboy could:

 

"Endlessly making copies of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple." All these groups were on state-issued blacklists during Medvedev's Soviet-era schooldays. 

 

"The quality was awful, but my interest colossal," he said. 

 

Medvedev went on to boast of his collection of Deep Purple LPs, saying that he had searched for the albums for many years. "Not reissues, but the original albums," he added, concluding that, "If you set yourself a goal you can achieve it."

I guess someone who likes the Zeppelin - and on vinyl, mind you - can’t be all bad. Can they?

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