The inauguration of Dmitri Medvedev as Russia’s new president this week is one of those fantastic Historical Occasions for which air quotes (yes, “air quotes”) seem designed. In the sense that the inauguration is basically a farce. Medvedev is, if not a full-on puppet of Putin, then at least overshadowed by his predecessor, the power-consolidating soon-to-be-Prime Minister.
Which makes The New York Times’s account of Medvedev’s inauguration, written by the inimitable CJ Chivers, wonderfully a propos:
Dmitri Medvedev, the Kremlin insider and unprepossessing lawyer who had never held elected office before, was sworn in as Russia’s president on Wednesday inside the Grand Kremlin Palace.
Mr. Medvedev has also presented himself in paradoxical ways.
He has often complimented the style and achievements of Mr. Putin, with whom he appears to have both a friendship and unwavering public support. But at times Mr. Medvedev has publicly championed the rule of law and the importance of human rights — both of which faced intensive pressure during Mr. Putin’s two terms.
His critics have said that he is little more than Mr. Putin’s puppet, and that his pledges to liberalize the country and commit to human rights are undermined by the very means of his election victory, against a weak slate of pro-Kremlin candidates. The Russian government allowed no true opposition candidates to compete.