*The Russian state operates on paper as a federal republic. Much like their democratic and parliamentary cousins, they have a distinct legislative, presidential, and judicial branch, hold elections, and have a constitution. However Russia’s erratic behavior in the international community, such as their brazen murder of Sergei Skripal and their intrusion into U.S. elections, have exposed them as something entirely different. They are effectively a kleptocratic oligarchy, with Vladimir Putin as its center, operating under the false facade of democracy.
The oligarchs are the 15-20 richest men in Russia and serve at the behest of Putin. They include high level executives at Russia’s largest companies, military and intelligence officers, and powerful government officials. The oligarchs use the resources and powers of the state to protect their wealth and enrich themselves by both legal and extrajudicial/illegal means. The whole bureaucracy of the state exists as a legal instrument through which Putin and the oligarchs operate with impunity. They can enact self-serving legislation, enforce bogus laws, prosecute and incarcerate rivals, seize property, illegally gather intelligence, control information and media, and make war under the pretense of legal, internationally recognized government activity.