The only thing that surprises me about the Russian government’s crackdown on the opposition ahead of the Duma elections on Sunday is how heavy-handed it is. President Putin is clearly keen to preserve the facade of Russian democracy and his party is cruising to victory anyway – so why bother?
An explanation of sorts was offered to me recently by Mikhail Kasyanov – once Putin’s prime minister, and now a leader of the increasingly fragmented and harried opposition. Kasyanov says that the current regime in the Kremlin is "based on the KGB spirit". He thinks that "Putin would win anyway, but the KGB mentality is risk averse. If they can eliminate risks, they’ll do it."