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Putin’s Surprise Appearance

The guys over at The Power Vertical have come across an interesting quote in Vedomosti which indicates that Vladimir Putin showed up uninvited and unexpected at last Friday’s political reform conference:

A State Council member later said that nobody had expected Putin at the meeting. The government had requested materials from the Kremlin at the beginning of the week. As for Putin’s intention to speak at the meeting, it only became known the morning of the meeting day…

Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov said that speaking up at the State Council meeting, the premier actually came to the defense of the political system he himself had shaped. It was Putin’s way of showing that nobody would be permitted to dismantle this system, Vinogradov said. If this is what it really was, then the 2012 intrigue will be even more complicated and captivating than general public could expect.

Perhaps Putin’s lack of preparedness explains the crass comments and dismissive remarks he made about any changes being necessary in Russian politics.  We’ve been reading a lot of opinions that Putin has the new role as Medvedev’s “spoiler,” ruining several initiatives from the WTO plan to the strategic arms reduction treaty with the U.S. to this latest crashing of his conference to hear proposals on political reform.

The question here, as highlighted by yesterday’s Amy Knight piece, is whether or not the light-as-a-feather public discord between Putin and Medvedev is genuine or just an act.  If it is the latter, and all we are watching is a rehearsed performance of colluding bulldogs under the carpet, it seems like an overly wrought ruse – perhaps impossibly so.  As Whitmore writes at PV, “One thing is clear, increasing sectors of the Russian elite are beginning to sense the limits of Putinism. But they doesn’t appear that they have anyting remotely approaching the strength to do anything about it yet.