Russian President Vladmir Putin has been busy tightening his already strong grip on the country, which heads to the polls to vote for its next president on Sunday.
While the outcome of the election isn't really in doubt, Putin is ensuring that his influence extends well beyond the new six-year term he'll inevitably win. He's fired a record number of elected regional governors and replaced them with younger supporters that could stay in office even after he leaves.
Putin replaced a staggering 35 percent of the country's governors between 2016 and 2017. That's a big deal for modern Russia, which is a federation of 85 states, each with its own laws and customs, overseen by the regional governor. They appoint officials, control budgets, and even have the power to pardon criminals.
The empty posts are temporarily filled with young recruits, who participate in the highly competitive “Leaders of Russia” training program. They then have to stand for local elections, which are nothing more than a formality since Putin selects the candidates.
This segment originally aired March 9, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.