Last week, Vladimir Putin pretended to hand power to Russia's new puppet president, the amiable former chair of Gazprom's board of directors Dmitry Medvedev. Reuters reports that Medvedev—by which they mean Putin—has "appointed three of Vladimir Putin's closest aides to run his administration, ensuring Putin retains his strong grip on power despite leaving the Kremlin." Breaking with protocol, Putin demonstrated who was in charge before the announcement. As The Moscow Times explains, Putin "not only remained in the left-hand seat, but also spoke first when presenting Medvedev with his new Cabinet." The paper declares the former president "the big winner" in the cabinet sweepstakes, though they reassuringly note that Putin's phalanx of liberal advisors were the "other winners," while a handful of anti-western hawks—the siloviki—were demoted.
And while this is all good news for the Russian economy, Putin continues to bully his critics in the media. Last month, the Associated Press reported that "Russia's lower house of parliament voted…to widen the definition of slander and libel and give regulators the authority to shut down media outlets found guilty of publishing such material." And today, the Times follows up on the case of Russian curator Yuri V. Samodurov, whose controversial exhibitions attacking the church and military have been consistently defaced by nationalists and religious extremists. Back in 2003, the Times explains, "a group of men raided Mr. Samodurov's museum, defacing many of the 45 works in another exhibition critical of the Orthodox Church called 'Caution, Religion!' While charges against most of the men were dropped for a lack of evidence, Mr. Samodurov was convicted of inciting religious hatred."
And so it is again. In an unsurprising move, prosecutors have now charged Samodurov with "inciting religious hatred" for the staging of his 2007 show "Forbidden Art." I am sure, though, that the prosecution is entirely unrelated to Samodurov's recent denunciation of the Putin government as "Stalinist" in its attacks on the pernicious influence of "foreign culture."