The protests, which began on Dec 14, rapidly took on a political hue and Mr Putin, who is intolerant of dissent, ordered the Kremlin’s top officials in the far east to use force next time. But senior adminstrators refused to intervene and a week later the government was forced to send a special detachment of riot police from Moscow to break up a second protest in Valdivostok.
Furious that he had again been disobeyed, Mr Putin directed Vladislav Surkov, his top ideologue, to sack the newly appointed head of internal affairs in Primorye, the region surrounding Vladivostok.
But the official, Maj Gen Andrei Nikolayev, flatly refused to leave his post. Sources say he threatened to expose corruption linked to the Kremln in the Russian far east if Mr Putin pressed ahead.
Such a gesture of defiance is almost unheard of in Russia. Gen Nikolayev was supposed to be the man entrusted by the Kremlin to keep regional officials under control.
But he quickly found a powerful champion in the form of President Dmitry Medvedev, who is said to have countermanded his dismissal. “The fight between Medvedev and Putin started over this issue and has been getting worse ever since,” the source close to the Kremlin said.
If this is true I don’t think that Medvedev has long to live. I am pretty sure that the men who know how to kill are still loyal Putin.