From the Editors of the Guardian:  There is a glaring paradox about the crackdown Vladimir Putin has launched since being elected president for a third term. If Putin commands majority support – a recent poll found that more than 33% want Putin to stay beyond 2018 for a fourth term – and if the opposition that filled the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg almost a year ago is by its own admission unable to present an alternative, why is Putin resorting to methods of repression unseen since Soviet days?

Methods such as this: an activist who had fled to Kiev to seek political asylum was kidnapped, maltreated for two days and told that if he did not sign a confession implicating fellow leaders of the socialist Left Front, Sergei Udaltsov and Konstantin Lebedev, his children would be killed. Udaltsov and Lebedev are being investigated for "plotting mass unrest" and face up to 10 years in prison. . . .

Putin’s crackdown has Russia watchers scratching their heads. There are conflicting theories: he is vindictive; he is bored, disengaged and out of touch; he is more insecure than he seems.

The last thesis bears scrutiny. It goes like this: the real struggle being played out is not the visible war against activists in the courts, but the invisible internecine tussle between rival groups of advisers in his circle. As the stability Putin managed to achieve in his first two terms turns to stagnation in his third, his authority is being challenged from within. A crackdown, selectively applied, skilfully manipulated, is Putin’s temporary and tactical answer. But it will do nothing to tackle the source of his problems – a corrupt, inflexible, unreformable system of government to which his name and fate are inextricably attached.  (photo: Teleloto)