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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: A President Set to Work With 'Judas'

"If Putin in his hometown of St. Petersburg can't handle the governor, who he himself in an interview four years ago labeled 'a Judas,' then will he have enough strength to put at least some distance between the oligarchs and the Kremlin?" - Segodnya, April 3.

It's a good question. Vladimir Putin made a show of inserting himself into St. Petersburg's gubernatorial race, throwing his support to an irrelevant carpetbagger posing as a Petersburger, Valentina Matviyenko. Liberals across the nation held their noses but embraced Matviyenko, on grounds that anyone would be better than the sitting governor, Vladimir Yakovlev.

For the intelligentsia, Yakovlev's administration has - to use the words of his former finance chief, St. Petersburg Yabloko leader Igor Artyemev - been notable for its "communist, fascist and anti-Semitic" flavor.

A year ago, for example, Yakovlev's administration plugged in a new head of news at Petersburg Television, and then a few days later a new official for cultural affairs.

The TV news chief was Yevgeny Lukin, the former spokesman for the St. Petersburg FSB and the author of an anti-Semitic novel that exonerated the NKVD. Under Lukin, Petersburg Television was soon reporting that NATO's war in Yugoslavia was the fault of environmentalist Alexander Nikitin.

The new cultural official, in turn, was Pavel Koshelev, a former dissident persecutor for the KGB. "In the 1970s and 1980s, our country had concrete ideological enemies, who, as it turned out later, in fact destroyed the country," Koshelev explained last year to The Moscow Times. "I worked in the ideological unit, and my goal was to determine and disarm foreign emissaries - Zionists, Americans, Germans - who influenced the country through the creative intelligentsia."

That about sums up the Yakovlev administration. That, plus a contract murder every couple of weeks, in a city where governor-controlled television pushes the thesis that it is pragmatic for governors to have dealings with organized crime figures.

But Yakovlev, like John Gotti in some New York neighborhoods, is popular - Yakovlev fixes the roads - and now Putin has all-but brokered his re-election. (And in the process, Putin has once again treated with contempt those Kiriyenko liberals who so shrilly insist Putin is "theirs.")

Why did Putin do this? It could be because he is too weak to stand up to Boris Berezovsky & Co.; or it could be because Putin will deal with and defer to anyone who wields power, regardless of what the chattering classes may hope or expect. Either way, the implications for the nation are the same.

- Matt Bivens