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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Public Note Conceals Private Pull




There has been little serious debate on President Vladimir Putin's plans to strengthen the "power vertical" by creating seven "super-regions," each supervised by a special presidential representative.


But while tycoon and State Duma Deputy Boris Berezovsky's open letter raises important points about the wisdom and desirability of Putin's legislative proposals, it is unlikely to have much effect on them or on their chances of getting through parliament. It is even less likely that it was meant to.


It seems more plausible that Berezovsky wanted to bolster the president's sagging credibility as a strong, effective leader. Recent months had brought a series of obvious political victories for the tycoon, each of them at Putin's expense.


For example:


-Within days of Putin's March 26 election win, the new president withdrew his endorsement of Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko's campaign to run for election against St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev. Putin ordered Matviyenko to cancel her campaign a day after Yakovlev had met with Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin - a long-time Berezovsky associate. Putin then held a strange, unscheduled meeting with Yakovlev when the presidential jet was diverted by "bad weather" to St. Petersburg.


-The day after Putin's May 7 inauguration, Berezovsky turned up in Kursk as the president took part in ceremonies leading up to the May 9 Victory Day holiday. The tycoon was not an official part of the president's entourage. He was described as an "honored guest."


-When everyone expected Putin to propose his ally Dmitry Kozak as prosecutor general, he instead proposed acting Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov. Numerous reports have credited Voloshin - and perhaps Berezovsky - with personally intervening to twist the presidential arm in Ustinov's favor.


After a losing streak like that, it is hardly surprising that the tycoon might want to restore the president's credibility. What better way to do so than to have the highly unpopular Berezovsky publicly oppose Putin's cherished plans to strengthen the power vertical?


When the bills pass - all three sailed through their first readings Wednesday in the Duma with 300-plus votes - Putin's image as a strong leader will be given a fresh polish.


Many had been disappointed by Putin's failure to distance himself from the oligarchs as promised. At the stroke of his pen, Berezovsky has placed himself at a distance - in public that is. After all, this is the tycoon who told Vedomosti just before the presidential election that he calls Putin once a month.


"He never refuses to talk," Berezovsky added.