With hindsight, those who weren’t watching when Vladimir Putin was small insist he was bigger than he was, but good at keeping secrets. Big or small physically or politically, they have still been unable to fathom Putin’s character, or explain why, after so many years in power, Putin remains as characterless as when he started. I was watching from the beginning; the KGB elixir allowed me to see through the secrets to the truth of the matter.
This was that Putin has remained the nondescript I had first met, but that the potency attributed to him now was picked up from a group of men on whom he depended for his rise, and on whom he still depends for his power. These were, these are the Russian oligarchs whose stories I have been investigating and reporting every day. By penetrating their secrets, I measure how Putin rules Russia; better to say, how Russia is ruled, and with what effect.