Has there been a power shift in Russia?

Two dictators, one Libyan and one Russian, walk together
Two dictators

Yesterday Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, in a typical piece of silly, misguided, macho posturing, said that the UN intervention in Libya was analogous to a “mediaeval call for crusades”. Just how stupid can you get? Here he was saying that we are engaged in a Moslem Vs Islam war when the reality is that we are involved in a humanitarian action to prevent an evil dictator slaughtering large numbers of his own people, the sort of dictatorial action that Putin knows a lot about. What was he trying to achieve?

Putin has been a disaster for Russia at every level. Being a journalist in Russia has become a very dangerous occupation. For opponents even eating in a sushi restaurant in London isn’t safe. Corruption has grown massively at every level of the state. The judicial system is used as a weapon of state policy against the innocent. Democracy has been squashed, with human rights and freedoms removed from ordinary citizens. Islamic terrorism has blossomed.

So it was both very surprising and very refreshing to see Putin being put down very quickly, very publicly and very firmly by the Russian President, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev who said: “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to use expressions which essentially lead to a clash of civilisations, such as ‘crusade’ and so on. It is unacceptable. Otherwise, everything may end up much worse compared to what’s going on now.”

To many in the West Medvedev was seen as Putin’s poodle, but this latest spat is just the latest in a series of increasingly acrimonious disagreements between them. Medvedev has turned on his master and it will be fascinating to see how the power struggle pans out. The country desperately needs a leader who can clean the place up, restore a genuine pluralistic democracy and who can become a responsible member of the international community.

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