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Russia: call for Libya cease-fire

The call for a cease-fire came as Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev split over their approach to Libya.

With presidential elections due to be held in one year’s time, Kremlinologists have begun trying to read the smallest tea leaves for a sign as to who will be Russia’s next president. Putin has said that he and Medvedev will decide who will run between themselves (and whoever runs will, almost certainly, win).

In many ways, it’s a useless game: Putin maintains overwhelming power inside Russia. Medvedev has been given certain portfolios: modernization as well as half-hearted attempts at justice and police reform. Their rhetoric might differ (liberal Medvedev to Putin’s tough guy talk), but never has there been a disagreement on policy.

“Putin jumped into the scandal consciously,” wrote Mikhail Fishman, the respected former editor of Russian Newsweek, currently at Russian Forbes. “A prime minister has no private opinion. The clear contradiction of the official line was a crude violation of business ethics.”

Putin’s spokesman repeated Tuesday that Putin was expressing his personal opinion.

“The louder the scandals, the clearer it is: the end of the tandem is near,” Fishman wrote.

That might be extreme. Yet Putin’s statements did provide a quick reminder of who he thinks is boss in Russia. That's something Medvedev usually accepts, but such a public slap in the face appeared to be too much.