A year away from the presidential election, the Kremlin’s technocrats are scrambling to find the best way to handle Vladimir Putin a landslide victory and could use “local referendums” to motivate Russians to vote.
Supporters of the president fear voter’s apathy –expressed in last year’s parliamentary elections by a 48% turnout, the lowest the country has seen in its modern history– could give Vladimir Putin a weak standing in what would be, according to the Russian constitution, his last term as President. Continue reading “Presidential Elections: To Raise Turnout, Kremlin May Propose Changing City Names, Sources Say”
Book Expedition would not strike the casual passer-by as anything special, and certainly not an integral component of the Russian state. Located in Kitai Gorod, the oldest part of central Moscow, the shop sells books and souvenirs to tourists wandering in one of the few really charming parts of the Russian capital.
But it is special – it is owned by the Directorate for Presidential Affairs and stands next door to the offices of its owner. As a result Book Expedition has a Federal Protection Service (FSO) agent constantly watching its front door, the elite of Russia’s security services and equivalent of the US Secret Service tasked with protecting the president among other things.
No one stops you entering the store. Heavy drapes hang in the door and windows but the atmosphere inside is snug compared to the sub-zero temperatures on the street outside. Eager saleswomen proudly show off luxurious hunting knives decorated with the emblems of the Russia Federation, the “Kremlin” and “VDV” (a Russian paratrooper division) branded eau de toilette, or the more run-of-the-mill calendars, watches and President Vladimir Putin biographies.
Thanks to its elite owner, Book Expedition was named in a decree signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as one of the country’s 64 state corporations – out of a total of 1120 “Federal State Unitary Enterprises” – that are “significant in order to ensure the rights and legal interests of Russian citizen as well as the defence and security of the State”.
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