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From the Carnegie Endowment:
An op-ed by ANDREI KOLESNIKOV and ANDREW S. WEISS, Sep 8, 2015
Russia’s three-year electoral cycle has gotten started with a bang.
One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest KGB cronies from his St. Petersburg days and a co-founder of the exclusive Ozero dacha housing cooperative was recently dumped from his cushy post as head of the state railway monopoly. This raised yet more speculation that Putin feels he needs to reshuffle his inner circle. The next day, Putin staged another of his trademark photo ops — piloting a mini-sub off the coast of Crimea. The Kremlin propaganda machine continues in overdrive, celebrating the destruction of banned (and allegedly toxic) foodstuffs smuggled in from the West.
Putin’s resort to theatrics clearly indicates he is gearing up to run for re-election in 2018. The annexation of Crimea and surge in Russian patriotism have pushed his approval rating to levels no Western leader can hope to replicate. The only place they can really go is down. Yet despite having no serious domestic political opponents, Putin’s path to re-election may prove complicated.............
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