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The Godfather

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“Putin designed a system of managed conflict,” Nikolay Petrov, scholar at the Moscow Carnegie Center told RFE/RL’s Brian Whitmore. “There is no competition in public. But he created different clans and groups who are fighting against each other.”

“This is the way Putin keeps control over the system. He is an arbiter who keeps the balance among them. It is impossible for him to leave. It is impossible to imagine this system without him because all of the agreements are guaranteed by him,” Petrov stated.

“Without him, all of these clans would fight each other, like after Stalin’s death.” Petrov said. “Russia is also personalistic: although [the clans] play an important role, it is Putin who is the major arbiter and who can even replace them,” he noted.

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Putin Campaigning in Geneva

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Vladimir Putin arrived in the Swiss city of Geneva on 13 June 2011 as a "quasi-presidential candidate," Nikita Robert reports in Tribune de Genève. Officially in Switzerland to attend the 100th Assembly of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Putin's visit is clearly part of his presidential strategy. "Expect lots of news; it will be interesting," said one Putin confidant, promising "surprises." The message was clear: Putin will occupy the front of the media scene, both in Russia and on the international scene.

During his private meetings in Geneva, Putin will discuss the role of Russian oil traders in Switzerland. Gunvor, controlled by Putin's old friend, Gennady Timchenko, has established itself as one of the world's biggest oil traders. Rosneft and Bashneft have opened offices in Geneva and Zurich, while TNK-BP could do the same. Whether this is just a reorganisation of the sales networks for Russia's "black gold" or a sign of conflict between Russia's oil majors, Putin, the grand conductor of Russia's energy policy, will have his say.

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Exit The Tandem, Enter The Team

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Who is truly calling the shots in Russia, Brian Whitmore asks in RFE/RL’s Power Vertical. Analysts are pointing out that Russia is run by a collective leadership. Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are the front men, but decisions are arrived at largely by consensus among a group that includes 10 to 30 people.

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Edvins Snore: Legacy of Soviet Communism

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Latvian political scientist and researcher Edvins Snore (Edvīns Šnore), director of the documentary film, The Soviet Story, gave a talk on the phenomenon of Soviet Communism at an event organised by the Finnish organisation, Pro Karelia, in Helsinki on 6 June 2011. Below, the full text of Mr Snore’s talk:

I want to thank the organisers of this event for inviting me to take part. I am delighted to be here in Finland and to speak about a subject, which is important to the Baltic people, which is known in Finland also, but which is less known in the rest of Western Europe. That subject is Soviet Communism and its legacy today.

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Russian Opposition Plans March on Kremlin

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Russia’s anti-government opposition has announced that it plans to march on the Kremlin. Opposition leaders Eduard Limonov, Vladimir Bukovsky, and Konstantin Kosyakin left notice to the Moscow mayor’s office about a planned rally in defence of the freedom of assembly on Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square on 31 January 2011. The rally would be followed by a march to the Kremlin.

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Russia Is A Mafia State

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While the US diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks have mostly failed to disclose anything about Russia that was not known before, the sheer volume of the documents depicting the vast system of corruption that the Kremlin’s puppet masters have dubbed the “power vertical” may indeed be a revelation to Western audiences.

Going through the trove of diplomatic cables leaked to WikiLeaks, The Guardian’s veteran correspondent, Luke Harding, describes Russia as a “corrupt, autocratic kleptocracy centred on the leadership of Vladimir Putin, in which officials, oligarchs, and organised crime are bound together to create a virtual mafia state.”

Arms trafficking, money laundering, personal enrichment, protection for gangsters, extortion and kickbacks, suitcases full of money, and secret offshore bank accounts in Cyprus: the cables paint a bleak picture of a political system in which it is often hard to distinguish between the activities of the government and organised crime.

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Putin Still Holding the Reins

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While supporters of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are pushing him to establish himself as a stronger tandem member, many political experts increasingly believe that no matter who becomes president in 2012, the road to the presidency still runs through Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev’s personal relationship with Putin, lack of a party foundation, and a small pro-Medvedev bureaucratic cadre limit his ability to be reelected without Putin’s consent. With the election not until 2012, wildcards such as political instability, health concerns, or a major economic decline could change the tandem equation, but experts perceive that no matter whether Putin, Medvedev, or someone else becomes President in 2012, Putin will have the final word.

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