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Russia’s Battle of the Ministries

With the Ukraine war dragging on, and Russia gripped by uncertainty, powerful groups within the government seem increasingly willing to break the unspoken rule against public infighting. This does not bode well for Vladimir Putin's regime.

NEW YORK – In Russia, if a public figure is being prosecuted or punished, two things used to be true: they oppose Vladimir Putin’s rule or his “special military operation” in Ukraine, and they are not a high-ranking official.

The arrest last month of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov for allegedly accepting a bribe ominously defied these rules of thumb. It also highlights deepening tensions among powerful groups in Russia amid a lack of coherent leadership from the despot in charge.

Make no mistake: Putin has no serious challengers. When he ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 22, 2022, even his own Security Council was surprised. Russia’s political and business elites were then forced to sacrifice many of their pre-war privileges and start building a new Russia that corresponded to Putin’s vision of history and international relations. They had no choice.