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Two Putins juggle three Kremlin clans

Vladimir Putin has quickly crushed Russia's infamous oligarchs who once thrived under Boris Yeltsin, though the Family still holds some influence in Moscow. Alongside it, two new factions now share the ascendancy in the Kremlin. Sergei Ivanov leads the hardliners that Putin is using to tighten his grip on political power. German Gref leads the liberal economists charting Russia's economic reform. A clash between them may be coming.

Since president Vladimir Putin was confirmed in office last May, he has been scorned for being a dictator in the making and hailed as the most liberal and reform-minded politician Russia has had since its rebuilding began. Depending on where you stand, he will still fit both descriptions.

"There are two Putins: an economic one and a political one," says Roland Nash, senior political analyst with Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital.

Widely believed at first to be a creation of "the Family" - the group of well-connected businessmen and oligarchs close to the Kremlin during the Yeltsin era - Putin has made considerable progress in consolidating his personal hold on power. But fighting between the three Kremlin clans: the Family, the Chekists - an authoritarian hardline group - and the St Petersburg liberals, a group of economists championing free markets, is not over.

At the beginning of 2000, the Family got off to a good start, but Putin rounded on them over the summer and by the start of November the battle was in its final phases.

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