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Russia

Yearbook 2009

Russian Federation. Oil price falls and global financial crisis pushed the Russian economy. GDP fell by 10 percent in the first half of the year, and the decline was expected to be similar for the entire year. The number of poor people is expected to increase from 18.5 million to 24.5 million for the first three months of the year. Poverty was defined as monthly income under 5 497 rubles, about SEK 1,300. The ruble was devalued at the beginning of the year. During the winter, protests occurred among workers who lost their jobs or did not receive their wages. Protesters demanded the resignation of the government, but instead governors were dismissed in crisis-hit regions. In February, President Dmitry Medvedev presented a financial support package for, among other things, the construction sector. According to countryaah, the state also made major commitments to rescue banks in crisis. During the year, Medvedev emphasized that the country's economy must become less dependent on commodities such as gas and oil.

2009 RussiaParallel to the economic crisis was a change in social and historical views, in which Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was portrayed as a unifying symbol and effective leader, while the abuses of the Soviet era were toned down. The judiciary intervened against criticism of the Stalin era's terror, prison camps and executions. Researchers were interviewed by police and seized archival material. When journalist Aleksandr Podrabinek claimed that war veterans not only won the war against Nazism but also glorified the Soviet system's "bloody, false and shameful" repression, he was struck by such heated reactions from the Putin-faithful Nazi movement that he must go underground. On October Memorial Day for the victims of the Stalin terror, President Medvedev came with an unexpectedly strong condemnation of the Stalin regime's crimes. He also lamented that many Russians still paid tribute to Stalin.

2009 Russia

A number of human rights activists were killed during the year. In January, lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were murdered in Moscow. Markelov had been a representative of a Chechen family, whose daughter was raped and killed by a Russian army commander. In July, the human rights organization Memorial's representative was murdered in Chechnya, an act that was strongly condemned by President Medvedev. Two right-wing extremists were arrested for the assassinations of Markelov and Baburova, but at the same time the extreme nationalist Slavic League and the Movement against Illegal Immigration were allowed to march in Moscow. On the last day of the year, symbolically enough, a large number of government-critical activists were arrested by riot police when opposition groups organized a demonstration in Moscow just for the right to freedom of assembly.

In the trial of the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, three accused men were acquitted in February. The verdict was appealed by the prosecutor and a new trial began in August. In September, the Supreme Court ruled on a new investigation into the murder of Politkovskaya. In the fall, a police officer who dismissed the corruption in the Russian police corps in a noted video on YouTube said that the investigations' conclusions are decided in advance by bosses. A quick investigation found no evidence of the charges and the man was charged with "fraud". Both the police corps and the prisons were subjected to harsh criticism. At the end of the year, a well-known lawyer died after being jailed for over a year pending trial. He was said to have refused medical attention. President Medvedev explained that the outdated legal system must be reformed.

The local and regional elections in October became a disaster for the political opposition. Putin's power party United Russia took about 80 percent of the vote in the country. In Moscow, the party won all but three seats, which went to the Communist Party. Liberal Party Jabloko fell out of the city council, despite an election poll showing over 13 percent. The opposition accused the United Russia of electoral fraud and believed that the country became a one-party state. Liberal Democrats, Communists and Justice Russia marched out of the newly elected parliament in protest, demanding the resignation of the President, the replacement of the electoral commission and the recasting of all votes.

In a poll conducted in connection with the election, a majority said that courts and parliaments would be happy to be subordinated to the president, and just over 40 percent felt that a leader with an "iron hand" may sometimes be needed in the Russian Federation. About a quarter preferred the Soviet system over today's democracy. Only 57 percent felt that the Russian Federation needed democracy.

Foreign policy began the year with a new gas conflict since the Russian Federation at the New Year throttled gas flow to Ukraine due to price disagreement. The gas crisis developed into a dispute with the EU since Ukraine seized transit gas to several EU countries. The conflict was resolved after two weeks. At the summit between the Russian Federation and the EU in May, the Russian Federation expressed concern that the so-called Eastern Partnership, which invited Ukraine and Georgia, among others, was directed at the Russian Federation. At the Stockholm Summit in November with the EU, the EU downplayed its criticism of human rights violations in the Russian Federation.

The country's relationship with the United States seemed to improve after Barack Obama's resignation as US president in January. Medvedev and Obama met several times during the year, including at the July summit in Moscow. They said they wanted to give relations between the countries a fresh start and agreed on a framework agreement to reduce the number of strategic warheads, and negotiations continued during the autumn. They also promised to work together to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. During the autumn, the Russian Federation welcomed Obama's decision not to build the controversial robot shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Medvedev declared in December that he had asked the House of Parliament to decide for himself when Russian military should intervene abroad, as in Georgia in 2008.

At the end of the year, the Russian Federation suffered severe disasters. Twenty-six people were killed in what was likely a bombing raid on the express train between Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and a fire at a nightclub in Perm took over 150 lives. Prime Minister Putin criticized fire safety as insufficient and said corruption was a cause. Fires in the country kill more than 15,000 people annually.

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