Friday, December 30, 2011

Russia: AIDS Epidemic- "Shame Russia Shame"

          AIDS came to Russia after it hit epidemic levels in other regions of the world. During the Soviet era, population movements were restricted but that changed in the early 1990s. Russia registered its first case of AIDS in 1987; by the end of the 20th century there were an estimated 20,000 cases, and some estimates suggest that the number of AIDS cases in Russia has doubled every year since 1998.
          Recent international attention has been directed toward Russia's healthcare system, the stigma attached to those infected, and Russia's drug policies; the country's geographic location puts it between Central Asia, where heroin is produced, and Europe, where it's sold.

'Red Ribbon' symbol of solidarity of people living with HIV/AIDS. Image by Flickr user Andy McCarthy UK (CC BY-NC 2.0).
Image by Flickr user Andy McCarthy UK  

          Writing for Foreign Policy Blog, Elizabeth Dickinson put Russia's AIDS epidemic in context with a September 2010 post entitled, "Is Russia's HIV/AIDS problem worse than Africa's?":
The New York office director of UNAIDS, Bertil Lindblad, is worried about the one region of the world where HIV infections are increasing, even as rates in the rest of the world level off. It's not in Africa or Asia, or even Latin America. It's Eastern Europe -- countries like Russia and Ukraine -- where a recent UNICEF report notes that increases in infection rates of as high as 700 percent have been seen since 2006. 
"There is an urgent need for the whole Eastern European and Central Asian region to act quickly," Lindblad said this morning. "This is really quite scary given the fact that there is denial, and so much stigma and homophobia [in that region.] This could really create huge problems if HIV continues to spread from smaller groups in the population to wider."
          The world is taking notice of the epidemic as evidenced by a Russian Embassy Protest Blog press release on December 5, 2011, pertaining to the World AIDS Day protests:
On World Aids Day, 2011, just a few short days ago, harm reduction organisations led by people who use drugs and supported by the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) gathered outside Russian embassies in cities across the world in the largest ever global show of solidarity by and for people who use drugs. 
The protests, entitled ‘Shame Russia Shame’, was directed at Russia’s highly controversial drug policies which are believed to be driving the EEC regions HIV and TB epidemics. Injecting drugs with contaminated equipment is driving Russia’s HIV epidemic, now the fastest growing in the world and it is reflected in the numbers; as many as 80% of new infections are occurring amongst people who inject drugs (PWID), in a total HIV positive population of approx 1.3 million. With this in mind, recent projections forecast an additional 5 million people could become infected with HIV in the near future, unless Russia drastically transforms the way it is dealing with its HIV pandemic.
          Masha Ovchinnikova posted a 2007 text for AIDS and Social Justice Blog entitled, "Harm Reduction Activism in Russia." A former drug user living in Moscow, Ms. Ovchinnikova discussed the challenges drug users face in Russia when they seek treatment:
Many financial, bureaucratic and moral barriers keep drug users from being able to take care of their health, or sometimes their lives. People can’t receive any medical help at the usual clinics if they are “kicking.” If you want to go into a detox program, you have to wait a few weeks, sometimes more. You have to prepare a lot of documents and take some tests (including HIV testing). Then, there is no guarantee you’ll get good medicine — but what’s for sure is that you’ll be blamed and humiliated by the clinic staff. 
Another problem is confidentiality of “drug user status.” You can’t get free treatment without official registration, but this list sometimes becomes available to the police. Although the situation has become somewhat better recently, the level of police abuse is still very high. Sometimes it’s still dangerous to buy a new syringe because the police are watching drug users near the pharmacies.
          Psychiatrist Blog illustrated how the organisation of the Russian healthcare system inhibits effective AIDS treatment:
In my clinic, the psychiatrists work in rooms next to the medical doctors. Today in clinic, I spoke to Mark Sulkowski, infectious diseases doc specializing in HIV-hepatitis C coinfection. We have several patients together. I know I can knock on his door anytime he’s not with a patient to discuss a patient or the latest new drug for hepatitis C (we have two new protease inhibitors that will likely increase cure rates). We also have social workers and pharmacists and case managers and primary care docs and OB/GYNs and dermatologists and ophthalmologists and neurologists. And we all write in the same charts and manage the same patients together. 
In Russia, no such system exists. Last week, we were discussing the tricky problem of managing patients with HIV infection, active tuberculosis, and active injection drug use. The biggest problem is there is no system. TB is treated in the TB clinic, HIV in the HIV clinic, and drugs in the “narcology” clinic (which is independent of both psychiatry and general medicine). And nobody talks to anybody else.
          In a post entitled "AIDS in Russia - Why Russia is Particularly Vulnerable," I discussed how Russian healthcare professionals are ill-equipped to treat those infected with HIV. Regional centers claim that they provide both pre- and post-test counseling, but that is not always the case, as illustrated by an account of a young woman in Nizhny Novgorod:
When I tested positive, I was completely shocked. I was told to go see a counselor. When I met the counselor, she said: 'You are infected with HIV. Please be advised that knowingly spreading HIV is a criminal offense under Russian law. If you have unprotected sex and spread the virus, you will be incarcerated. Sign this document to show that you have understood.' That was all the counseling I got. When I got in the hallway, I thought I would faint. I didn't know anything about ARV's [anti-retrovirals]. I found out about them only last year when I was in Moscow.
          As in many countries, the attitude toward those infected with HIV/AIDS is a real issue. posted a music video intended to mitigate this stigma by showing how an attractive young couple coped with learning that they were HIV+. A popular Russian-language LJ blog discussed the issues [ru] surrounding the stigma:
In our society, there is a pattern in conduct directed towards people who are HIV+ in that they are effectively "buried alive." Friends only contact those infected sparingly lest they too become infected. Any excuse would be used to expel [an infected person] from school and there's no way to find a new job. And the problem isn't even with the evil employers - you yourself would be the first ones to protest if a nanny at your kid's kindergarten is HIV-infected. [...] Even doctors, who would seem to be knowledgeable people, deny people treatment if they recognize the patient has HIV. 
But this is not the only problem - many people, fearing the stigma associated with infection, refuse to get diagnosed, and when they do learn their diagnosis, they conceal it, and this in turn leads to a rapid development of the epidemic. The only way to combat this is the re-education of society. [...]

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Russia: Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the 2012 Presidential Election

          Formerly Russia's richest man, jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky is once again in the political spotlight, as Russian presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov vows to pardon Mr. Khodorkovsky if he's elected next spring. Mr. Khodorkovsky has been incarcerated since 2003, when he was arrested for non-payment of back-taxes as part of the "Yukos Affair". Many have doubted the validity of the charges against him and view his prosecution as part of PM Vladimir Putin's political agenda.
          In a Nov. 16 post entitled "FC Anzhi and the Yeltsin Era Money," Global Voices described Russia's economy since the fall of the Soviet Union, the origin of the "oligarchs," as well as Putin's attempts to control and direct their activities:
The Yeltsin era of the 1990s was characterized by a struggle over who would emerge from the transition with holdings of Russia's major sources of wealth, such as its natural resources. The victors in that struggle are known as the ‘oligarchs' because they possess a degree of wealth that surpasses most people's ability to conceptualize. [...] 
Vladimir Putin's rise has had unexpected effects on the power of the oligarchs in that he has been able to enforce limitations on them and to direct their activities.
          The early Putin years marked a divide between the oligarchs who fell in line with Putin's wishes and those who didn't. During this time Mr. Khodorkvsky, CEO of the oil giant Yukos, was praised by international organizations for being the first of Russia's elite to make public his financial records; he met with world leaders, he engaged in well-publicized domestic relief efforts, and he mentioned running for President in 2008. Mr. Khodorkovsky was then arrested in 2003 and his assets were seized.
          Pavel Khodorkovsky, Mikhail's son, wrote in a blog associated with CNN on Nov. 15 about his father's 2003 arrest and incarceration.
It’s been eight years since Vladimir Putin’s thugs forcibly removed my father, Mikhail, from a plane and took him to prison. 
The last time I saw him was a few weeks before his arrest, when he was visiting me at college in Boston. There were already concerns about his safety in Russia; his business partner, Platon Lebedev, had been locked up earlier that summer. And despite the urging of American friends and colleagues to stay here, my father remained firm and returned home. 
In the intervening eight years, after enduring two show trials and countless other indignities – all while the international community’s condemnation of his imprisonment fell on deaf ears within the corrupt Russian regime – my father has not given up hope. 
Even as the term of his first sentence ended two weeks ago – and, therefore, by all accounts, he should be set free – he remains optimistic. 
He is encouraged that in the last few months, the chorus of those who denounce his imprisonment has grown louder. In May Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience. Then the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he was not afforded fair hearings and had been subjected to degrading conditions in court and in prison. This fall the International Bar Association concluded that his second trial was unfair, based on “mistake-ridden and self-contradictory” charges that were at odds with the Russian criminal code.
Protesters at a rally demanding freedom for Mikhail Khodorkovsky outside the Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow. Photo by RFE/RL RFE/RL, copyright © Demotix (12/27/2011)

         Khodorkovsky's life story has been immortalized by a 2011 documentary film. Samuel Rubenfeld wrote in a blog associated with the Wall Street Journal about the film:
German filmmaker Cyril Tuschi directed the film, which Corruption Currents saw at a special press screening on Nov. 3. He began with painting a picture of the Wild West landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Graft ruled, and it still does: The World Justice Project’s 2011 Rule of Law Index (pdf) warned of a lack of checks and balances in Russian government, leading to “an institutional environment characterized by corruption, impunity and political interference.” 
Such was the case of Khodorkovsky, according to the film, which features the first interview with the man since his detention.
          There were issues with finding Russian theaters willing to screen the film, and in the interview Tushci was asked to discuss that process. This post was published on Nov. 29, which was days before the controversial parliamentary elections, and yet this film maker, who had a limited understanding of the Russian language or Russian culture, as he indicated earlier in the interview, seemed to be aware of something ominous. He seemed to be aware of a powerful link between Putin and Khodorkovsky:
I’m very surprised that they are so open-speaking about it. They don’t screen it out of self-censorship. I don’t think…that the Kremlin said, “Don’t do it.” I think the cinema owners fear state revenge if they would do it. [What kind of revenge?] Very simple. Tax inspections. Not enough fire doors, so you get a fine of a million or something silly like that. But maybe it’s just inherited in their genes the authoritarian character. 
Not in everybody. I’m very happy people are changing, and the air is changing in the last 72 hours. It changed a lot. [What happened in the last 72 hours?] Something’s happening, and it’s not only the film. The film’s only triggering something that’s already in the air. All the…approval for Putin is going down. People are criticizing and laughing at Putin on live TV, and this wouldn’t have happened before. Something is changing and I’m curious what will happen.
Russian billionaire and presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov at a news conference in Moscow. Photo by RFE/RL RFE/RL, copyright © Demotix (09/14/2011)

          In a Dec. 16 post, the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev Communications Center announced how the upcoming Russian presidential election could affect Khodorkovsky's fate:
Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who plans to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia's presidential election said that his first move if elected will be to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [...].
          The post went on to cite a Wall Street Journal article, which quoted Putin's response to whether he would be equally willing to free Mr. Khodorkovsky if he were to win the election:
"Freeing Khodorkovsky is the president's right. For the pardon to happen, Khodorkovsky would have to write an appeal for a pardon, and effectively assume the guilt, which he hasn't done so far. If he writes it, the pardon will be possible by law. If Khodorkovsky writes such an appeal, I will consider it, but I will have to become the president for that first."
          A Russian-language blog devoted to Mr. Khodorkovsky's cause cited a article in their Dec. 2 post:
Самый известный российский заключенный считает основным риском после возвращения Путина на третий срок возникновение новых проблем для бизнеса и экономики и отмечает, что власть в России утрачивает каналы для объективной оценки ситуации.
Russia's most famous prisoner said the main risk after the return of Putin for the third term is the emergence of new problems for business and economics. He notes that the Russian authorities are losing their power to effectively form an objective assessment of the situation.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Russia: Holy Relic Visits a Nation Emerging From State-Sponsored Atheism

          During the past few months people from across Russia traveled great distances and endured freezing temperatures in order to view the belt said to have been worn by the Virgin Mary. Such a display of religiosity in Russia is remarkable, given that the country only stepped away from an atheistic form of government 20 years ago. However, the fact that this particular Holy Relic is known to promote fertility might explain why a nation enduring a demographic crisis would take an interest in it.
          Kievan Rus adopted Christianity in the late 10th century from the Byzantine Empire, and for almost a millennium until the early 20th century, when the Romanov Dynasty was overthrown and a communist government was put in its place, Russia was among the most devout nations in the world. During the eight decades of communism, religion was discouraged and a new moral code was instituted based on respect for the working class. When the Soviet Union fell and the communist sense of morality no longer had as many proponents, Russians were tasked with deciding for themselves what they thought about spirituality and religion.

          Russia Blog quoted an Izvestia article in a 2006 post entitled, "Are Russians Becoming More Religious?" The author noted that an alternative explanation for the increase in the number of Russians who claim to be religious was reflective of the comfort level of those polled in divulging their religiosity rather than an increase in religiosity:
In 2006, 15 years after the fall of the atheist Soviet Union, 84 percent of Russian citizens said they believed in God, according to a study conducted by Izvestia and the polling agency, VTsIOM. A similar VTsIOM poll in the early 1990's found that 34 percent believed in God. Among respondents, 63 percent considered themselves Orthodox Christians, 6 percent were Muslims and 1 percent Catholics and Buddhists. Another 16 percent said they were atheist. The percentage of Russians who attend religious services has grown from 4 percent during perestroika to 10-12 percent today.
          Fr Stephen Smuts, a TAC Clergyman in Southern Africa, posted a blog entry in March 2011 entitled, "Religion Will be Studied in All Russian Schools by 2012":
After a trial year, “Foundations of religious culture and ethics” will be taught in all Russian schools throughout the country next year, the Russian Ministry of Education announced at a press conference held on March 23 in Moscow with representatives of the four major religions. According to authorities and religious leaders, especially from the Russian Orthodox Church, the trial year was a “success”, but nobody was able to respond to journalists questions with exact figures on the course participants and the degree of satisfaction. 
Banned during the Soviet era, religion made a comeback in schools in April 2010, but only in some regions, with an initiative strongly supported by the Patriarch of Moscow and blessed by the Kremlin, which aims to a cement national identity on shared values. Students of primary and secondary schools may choose to study between the history of one of the four traditional religions – Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism – or more general courses on “foundations of religious culture” or “fundamentals of public ethics”. So far the lessons were held for only one semester of the school year, but the Orthodox Church has asked that in 2012 they be extended over the year.
          Such is the societal and governmental context present to receive the Holy Relic. And Amazing Grace Blog described the relic's visit to Russia in a Nov. 25 post:
The Virgin Mary's Cincture, a belt that Christians believe was worn by Jesus' mother, was brought to Russia last month from Mount Athos, a monastic community in Greece. Kissing the relic, which is encased in an ornamental box, is believed to help barren women conceive and heal other ailments. 
The line of people, mostly women, waiting to enter the golden-domed Christ the Savior Cathedral stretched for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) along the Moscow River despite temperatures that dropped to below minus 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).Hundreds of buses brought pilgrims from other Russian cities. Some 150 buses were parked along the embankment with their engines running so the faithful could get warm as they waited. The city provided free tea and food and put up portable toilets. Police officers announced through bullhorns that it will take worshippers 24 hours to get to the relic as the line swelled to tens of thousands.
People queueing to see the belt of the Virgin Mary, which was on display‎ in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a week last month. Photo by Veronica Khokhlova, Nov. 22, 2011
          Ruth Institute Blog quoted a Voice of Russia report last month, which contained an interview with Vladimir Yakunin, the head of the Council of Trustees of the St. Andrew Foundation, the organization that facilitated the artifact being brought to Russia from Greece:
“We did no expect to see such a great number of people willing to pray before the shrine. We saw a lot of pilgrims in Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Ussuriysk, Tyumen and other cities. And those were not only orthodox Christians but people of different beliefs. For example, in Saint Petersburg we saw a Muslim woman, who was taken from a hospice to see the shrine. This proves that more and more people are striving for spiritual revival, and they believe in better. Monks who accompanied the shrine from Athos were astonished at such a huge number of believers arriving to pray before the Belt”.
          In the Russian-language LiveJournal blog of user Alliruk, there was a discussion pertaining to the relic that brought forth several issues that affect religion in Russia. There was talk of the generational divide between those who had been socialized under atheist communism and the younger generation. Members of the generation socialized under communism suggested that this religious fervor associated with the relic is a sign of a form of 'de-modernization' in Russia. They seemed to believe that it's not rational to look to a relic for help. Alliruk had this to say [ru] about modernization:
Modernization in a culture is described as the narrowing of the sphere controlled by religion, and a consistent policy of secularization of politics, life, work, family relations, etc. That is - if people are praying less to be relieved of certain ailments, but are eating more antibiotics instead - it is part of the modernization process. [...] You may not like modernization, [that's okay], it's an argument about values, but modernization includes secularization, nothing can be done about it. 
The Soviet project was [...] one of the most consistent of all modernization projects in history. This includes secularization (again - this statement is not my assessment of the Soviet experience as positive or negative, I'm just stating the facts. It is bad to persecute priests, if you want to know my opinion). As a result, the Soviet society was more or less modernized (in addition to the attitudes towards religion, this, of course, also involved upgrade in terms of education, industrialization, social mobility, and much more). 
What we've seen in the last two decades - is many indicators of de-modernization. We've seen crises, the crash of high-tech industries, a fall in the level of education, the elimination of social mobility, and the transformation of state mechanisms into what euphemistically have been referred to as the proliferation of "alternative methods of solving problems" (in fact, methods taken from the traditional, pre-modern society). And finally, we have this triumphant return of orthodoxy in the form of a quasi-public religion. All this together is described with the word 'de-modernization'.
          Francis Phillips wrote in a blog associated with the British-based Catholic Herald about how if one were to focus on the authenticity of this artifact one would be in danger of missing out on its significance:
Before sceptical people point out that venerating a belt allegedly worn by the Virgin Mary in order to become pregnant displays the worst kind of medieval Christian superstition, I will add that whether the relic is authentic or not is not quite the point: it is a vivid and reverent reminder of the supernatural, telling the faithful that this world, its woes and social ills, is not all there is: and who can say that new life might not spring from heartfelt prayer in its presence?
          The Nov. 28 post went on to cite an article written by demographer Nichols Eberstadt for Foreign Affairs, which claimed that of all of the tragedies that have occurred in Russia since the Soviet collapse, the country's demographic decline has been the most catastrophic. Ms. Philips added:
Obviously a religious relic alone cannot change things; healthcare, housing, employment are all involved. But it can provide the inspiration to change the climate of despair that makes people choose not to have children and the spur for individuals to think of creative solutions.

Russia: "Why are Russians Protesting Now?"

          On Saturday, Dec. 10, the world watched the biggest protests Russia has seen since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It has been almost exactly 20 years since Christmas Day in 1991 when power passed from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. It is believed that Yeltsin did not even make a personal appearance to accept from Gorbachev the suitcase filled with the means to activate Russia's nuclear arsenal. Such an uneventful day contrasts greatly with today's demonstrations directed toward alleged election fraud committed by Prime Minister Putin's United Russia Party.
          Signs of public discontent started weeks ago, however, when Putin was met with a hostile crowd at a Mixed Martial Arts competition in Moscow on Sunday, Nov. 20. Global Voices covered the incident and cited Alexey Navalny's blog:
Blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny posted in his LiveJournal [ru] two videos of Putin's speech at the Olimpiysky Sports Complex in a post entitled, “The End of an Era.” In the videos, Putin stepped on stage after Mr. Emelianenko defeated American Jeff Monson and did not say anything provocative. Speaking Russian, Putin simply referred to Mr. Emelianenko as a “genuine Russian hero,” he congratulated him on his victory, and thanked him graciously. It appears from the video that the crowd was not reacting to Putin's words but rather they were reacting negatively to his presence. Navalny's post has generated nearly 3,000 comments.
         Daniel Bennett, a Ph.D. student based at the BBC and the War Studies Department at Kings College, London, announced on Dec. 7 in Frontline Club Blog that Navalny had been arrested:
Russian blogger and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny has been arrested after participating in post-election protests in Moscow against the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  In March this year, the Russian business daily Kommersant was forced to retract an article which attempted to discredit Navalny's exposure of large scale fraud at Transneft, the state-owned pipeline company in 2010. [...]
Police officers detain a protester during a rally at Triumphal Square on Dec. 7. Photo by Maria Pleshkova, copyright © Demotix (07/12/2011)
         The following day, on Dec. 8, a blog associated with the American-based CNN wrote that Putin accused the United States of instigating the protests:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blamed the United States Thursday for encouraging opposition protests that have broken out since parliamentary elections Sunday. His accusation followed comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week on Russia's election in which she called for a "full investigation" of apparent irregularities. [...] Speaking on state TV, Putin said Clinton had criticized the elections as "neither fair not free - even before receiving reports from international observers." This had sent a signal to opposition figures, Putin said, who "with the support of the U.S. State Department" then began "active work."
          The main event, however, came on Saturday, Dec. 10. A blog associated with the British publication The Guardian posted a timeline of the day's events, which included a bulleted summary and a reminder of the upcoming presidential election:
5.12pm: We are wrapping up the blog now, at the end of an historic, but peaceful day of mass protests across Russia. The protests come three months before Putin, who was president in 2000-2008 and effectively remained the country's leader while prime minister, is to seek a third term in office. [...] 
• Russia saw the largest political event of its kind in nearly 20 years with tens of thousands of furious protestors rallying across the country against alleged electoral fraud
• An estimated 50,000 people gathered in Moscow and 10,000 in St Petersburg. There were around 1,000 arrests on a day that passed off largely peacefully 
• Protestors pledge to take to the streets again on December 24 
• Protestors demand annulment of Sunday's election results; the resignation of the head of the election commission and an official investigation into vote fraud. 
• They also want new democratic and open elections and registration of opposition parties
          Alexander Kolyandr quoted several protesters as well as a spokesman for the Moscow Police in a blog associated with the Wall Street Journal on Saturday:
Rustam Kerimov, 33, architect: “I have concerns that if new voting is announced, leftist parties and populists may get greater support. I’m a democrat, and I don’t see a real alternative to Putin now, as there are no real opposition candidates. But those in power must respect us, our votes, our will.” Mr. Kerimov says he never goes to rallies and was very surprised by the number of people. [...] 
Ksenia Korneyeva, magazine editor: “We just want to show that we exist.” Ms. Korneyeva defaced her ballot in the recent election with a large X. She carried a white chrysanthemum as a sign of peace at a peaceful protest. [...] 
Dmitry, 18, student: "I think the elections were falsified. Not completely, but in part. We want the results to be re-examined." [...] 
Viktor Biryukov, spokesman for the Moscow police: “Everything is calm, and there are no extremists here, unlike at the previous gatherings. See for yourself.”
          Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog included a link to a Russian-language article, which announced the results of Sunday's Duma elections, in a Dec. 9 post entitled, "Why are Russians Protesting Now?" After all, United Russia lost its super majority which is necessary in order to alter the Russian constitution at will: the final count shows United Russia with about 238 seats, the Communist Party - 92, Fair Russia - 64, and LDPR -56.
As a day of protests against Sunday’s Duma election begins in Russia’s Far East, the big question is why are people protesting now? After all, it’s not like this is the first Russian election with shenanigans, fraud, etc, etc.
          In an effort to answer the question, Sean referred to an article found in Svobodnaya Pressa, which included a report by Leontii Byzov, a senior sociologist from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences:
Byzov: There are several overlapping factors. First, the rise of a new generation of young people who don’t remember the “trauma of the 1990s”. They are not afraid of change, it is more attractive to them than the “gilded cage” of Putinist stability. Young members of the middle class want social mobility and dream about meteoric careers. 
Another factor is the swelling internal opposition within the Russian elite. In the 2000s, Putin served as a certain guarantor of balance between elite groups with completely opposite interests. Such as, for example, the siloviki and liberals in the government. Under President Medvedev this process became unbalanced. One was for Putin, the other for Medvedev. Those who stood with Medvedev felt the taste of power and property. They urged the President to remove Putin from the Premiership and run for a second term. For them, this was a chance that would have called for a struggle against the financial flows Putin’s people control. For control of Gazprom and other state corporations. Therefore, it was hard to presume that these groups would submit to defeat and quietly leave and put aside their plans for the next several years and, perhaps, forever. [...]