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Oppose the Kremlin, go to jail

The week's news at a glance.

Russia

Georgiy IlichevIzvestiya

The Kremlin may have overreacted this time, said Georgiy Ilichev in Moscow’s Izvestiya. Bolstered by its success in taking down Yukos oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, it is now launching an investigation into the finances of another potential political threat: former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov. But there’s a crucial difference in the two cases. Khodorkovsky, now stuck in prison for tax evasion, was a charismatic billionaire with the resources to create a formidable opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Kasyanov, by contrast, is neither particularly rich nor remotely popular. His approval rating last month was a paltry 1 percent, compared with Putin’s 41 percent. That’s why many Russian analysts were “bewildered at the powerful propaganda that rained down” on him last week. And some of them say it could backfire. Now that the Kremlin is investigating his purchase of a dacha, “political spin doctors” could portray Kasyanov as a “victim of the regime”—always a figure of sympathy to the Russian people.

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