Putin appears firmly set on tightening the bureaucratic screws while simultaneously expanding the package of populist promises.
Medvedev has no role in this mechanism of hands-on management of revenues and property re-distribution; his pretense of charting the course towards modernization has lost any plausibility, which was perhaps the deepest bottom line from the Yaroslavl forum last week.
It is too obvious that Medvedev is out of his depth in tackling the macro-economic issues tightly intertwined with squabbles between political clans; he may also be over-playing his ineffectuality in order to convince Putin that it is safe to let him stay for another presidential term. It is less obvious that Putin is also out of his depth and is over-playing his bossiness in order to hide a lack of real control. Elections are set to decide nothing and leave Russia with no chance of addressing its internal conflicts by democratic means.