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This week, Putin signaled his intent to reverse one of the few high-profile reforms Dmitry Medvedev enacted while president: keeping Russia stuck in summer time all year after clocks sprang forward in March. It’s perhaps an apt symbol of Putin’s relentless drive to roll back even the modest liberal legacy left behind by his protege, who made timid attempts at modernization as president but never emerged from the shadow of his patron — and meekly agreed to step down to let him reclaim the top job.

One by one, each of Medvedev reforms — from decriminalizing slander to purging the boards of state-run companies of government officials — has been swept aside. Observers see it as part of a new tough course taken by Putin in response to massive winter protests against his rule, an indication that he sees no need for a compromise with the opposition. Suspicions are also rife that Putin may even be gearing up to dump Medvedev, his longtime political partner, as prime minister.

Nobody believed that Medvedev would really be in charge when he took over as president in 2008, while Putin moved into the prime minister’s seat to observe a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms.

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