There is, nevertheless, an issue that Medvedev can ignore for another week only at great peril to his quasi-leadership: the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
While to all legal intents and purposes the cross-examination of the haphazardly built and poorly presented case has long left the realm of common sense and traveled deep into the territory of absurdity, politically it makes perfect sense. Putin established many months ago that sometime in the course of next year the two co-rulers would sit together and decide who will “run” for the presidency in 2012, and Medvedev has been eager to go along with this, clearly fancying a second term for himself. Medvedev is trying to show presidential resolution even appointing Sergei Sobyanin –most certainly Putin’s choice– as the mayor of Moscow. Quite probably, Medvedev has not even noticed that the decisive moment for him has arrived without an invitation from his senior partner to have a heart-to-heart. In only a few days, the very tired judge, Viktor Danilkin, will deliver the verdict on his presidency, after which there will be few reasons to keep waiting to discover what Putin prefers. Khodorkovsky has left Medvedev an opportunity to rise above the level of quasi-president by pointing out that the prosecution has done all the hard work of destroying their case and proving his innocence. Medvedev knows Putin too well to believe that this opportunity might be grasped.