For many in Russia President Dmitri Medvedev’s dismissal of a powerful political rival simply underlines his firm grip on power. But the unsavoury way Medvedev snuffed out his opponent will alarm those who see Russia’s current president as a liberal counterpoint to Putin.
The dispute between Medvedev and Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s mayor for the past 18 years, once considered Russia’s second most powerful politician, was as brief as it was acrimonious. At the beginning of this month the mayor wrote an ill-advised article describing the mood in Russian society as “difficult”. The response from the Kremlin was unequivocal. The warning sign came at a political forum in the city of Yaroslavl later that week, when Medvedev suggested that “officials should either participate in building institutions or join the opposition.”
What followed was a smear campaign that would have made