Making up for its woefully misleading article on the Russian economy (apparently some sort of warped attempt to seem fair and balanced) the Carnegie Center has atoned by laying bare the hideous recent assault by the Kremlin on local elected officials, which began with the arrest of governor Alexei Barinov and continued yesterday with the arrests of Senators Alexander Sabadash, Boris Gutin and Igor Ivanov (as reported by the Moscow News). Carnegie's Nikolai Petrov had this to say in the Moscow Times:
Sadly, these events have generated virtually no serious reactions from opposition politicians. There has also been a complete lack of response from nongovernmental organizations, either because they have become paralyzed by the new laws concerning them or because the victims in this case don't evoke any sympathy. This is a shame because the authorities only do what society lets them get away with, and to treat this as merely inconsequential infighting at the top bodes poorly for the long term.La Russophobe would use a stronger word than sad . . . on the other hand, perhaps there is no word which is strong enough to encompass a naked frontal assault on democracy while Russians stand by quietly and let it happen, just as they allowed Stalin to rise to power.
So a further strengthening of the hard-line element within the Kremlin elite appears to have convinced those at the top that they don't really need the governors. The events, coming right after Putin's annual address and happening in regions with economies strong in oil, gas and metals, simply reinforce the sense of the strengthening business-politics linkage.
This seriously affects the dialectical intersection of federalism and democracy. The dismantling of one leads to the weakening of the other. What we are seeing is the direct result of the dramatic weakening of democratic institutions in general -- and the Federation Council in particular -- and the retreat from open, public politics, including from the direct elections of governors. What will be next? The cancellation of presidential elections? Radical revisions to the entire federal system further down the road? Who knows?
The Kremlin is moving on another front, reports UPI. It is not only arresting and destroying all possible opposition, it is removing the "against all" option from the ballot itself, returning Russia fully to the Soviet position where one could only vote for a single candidate or not at all.