Does the cover of this week's Economist say a lot about Russia under Vladimir Putin?
Reality (of today's Russia): True.
In my mind, this cover has a duel meaning. To show Putin as new, fresh, and alive is one of them, with the Soviet era behind him and his country. The other is that while Soviet Communism and all its horrors is gone, the men secretly working in the background might not be — the KGB was part of Soviet Russia, and it continues to be, operating under a new guise, in new clothes.
Maybe the editors at The Economist only intended the photo to illustrate a new Russian leader using old tricks; or perhaps they wanted to show that while Putin is alive, so are aspects of Russia's past. They even might have intended it to show both the old (black and white) Soviet era with Putin and his spies as an element of that, the duel meaning I interpret it as giving off. In short, maybe the cover shows Putin in the forefront and his spies behind him (in a way), or it just shows him with the past behind him.
Overall I think the cover touches most upon the 'neo-KGB state' the magazine fears Russia to be heading into, with Putin leading the charge for the supremacy of Russia, and of himself.