The new economic data released by the Rosstat last week surprised even the doomsayer-economists, who have become the mainstream in this discredited profession.
What is rather surprising in this situation of progressive economic dislocation is that protest activity remains low and does not show any pronounced tendency toward radicalization.
Medvedev's helplessness is hardly a factor of much importance in Russia's de facto unipolar political system, but Putin's progressive inability to execute his authority most certainly is. During his long reign, he has organized his court in such a strict order that his aides and advisors tell him only what he wants to hear; and this ritual denies him access to the unpleasant truth, which makes his crisis management work entirely ineffective. Since "manual control" is his preferred style of leadership, nobody in the government dares show any initiative, and the emergency measures are typically not only belated but also distorted by parochial interests of competing Kremlin clans. It is possible to continue the pattern of denial of responsibility for economic blunders and fraud only so long, but the moment of reckoning is looming, and the easiest way out for opportunistic courtiers and desperate oligarchs would be to flock to Medvedev and pin the blame on Putin. That would hardly help much in discharging the growing social discontent, but this "elite" is incapable of either staging an autocratic coup or launching a reform project.