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The Daily Vertical: Putin's War At Home (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

As Vladimir Putin basks in his victories abroad, problems are piling up at home.

Rustam Minnikhanov, the leader of oil-rich Tatarstan, has denounced a recent Kremlin decision to take more of his republic's tax revenues, calling it "stupidity" and comparing it to Josef Stalin's liquidation of the kulaks.

Minnikhanov's broadside this week reflected a growing anger in Russia's wealthier regions, which are being asked to shoulder a larger share of the tax burden as the economy contracts.

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And at the same time, Russia's poorer regions are also getting restless.

In the impoverished Mari Republic, for example, locals are demanding the removal of the Kremlin's hand-picked leader, Leonid Markelov, accusing him of corruption and incompetence.

And with the number of people living below the official poverty line of $160 a month spiking from 15.5 million in 2013 to 21.4 million this year, Russia's poorer regions will likely be getting more and more restive.

Renewed tensions with the regions illustrate the obvious: The Russian Federation is not a federation at all. It's run more like an empire.

And that works fine when the economy is booming and there are plenty of goodies to feed the kleptocratic elite and keep the regions and the population docile.

But in a shrinking economy, not so much.

So while 2016 may be the year Putin restored Russia's status abroad, it may also be remembered as the year he began to lose his grip at home.

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