NEWSWATCH: “Putin isn’t as all-powerful as he looks; In local elections, which are harder to rig, the opposition is rising.” – Washington Post/Jackson Diehl

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

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If opposition leaders … start to look dangerous … bad things happen …. Yevgeny Urlashov, a charismatic opposition leader who in 2012 won election as mayor of Yaroslavl … is now serving a 12-year prison sentence on trumped-up charges. Boris Nemtsov … was murdered on a bridge outside the Kremlin …. Alexei Navalny … has been banned from elections and subjected to constant harassment since receiving 27 percent of the vote in a 2013 contest for mayor of Moscow. … [Putin’s] regime consists of a centralized, mafia-like clique that controls the military, security services, state television and a number of big companies but – unlike in the Soviet era – not everything. * * * …

Though they don’t get much attention, popular protests are slowly growing … triggered by the abuses and disasters of a failing government – such as the shopping-mall fire … or the landfill emitting toxic fumes ….”

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