This paper analyzes changing political processes in contemporary Russia that encompass both machine politics and populism. By considering some of the relational trade-offs between machine politics and populism, this paper argues that the former, which has been a prominent feature since the 1990s, is now weakening, as is demonstrated by the recent regional policy recently adopted by the Kremlin. On the other hand, some populist elements became obvious after the Ukrainian crisis. The 2016 Duma election can be viewed in this political context. The Kremlin’s attempts to make a ‘clean’ image, and to distinguish Putin from a United Russia party reflect these underlying changes in Russia’s political processes.