Russian Federation. The year was marked by a tug of war
between the authoritarian state and growing opposition
movements. There were some signs of democratic openings on
the part of President Dmitry Medvedev, but a new prison
sentence against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's political
opponents once again darkened the picture.
In January, nearly ten thousand people demonstrated in
Kaliningrad demanding the departure of Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin. It was the biggest protest in the Russian
Federation in several years. According to
COUNTRYAAH, high unemployment and sharply
expensive municipal services caused growing dissatisfaction,
and similar demonstrations were held in several cities.
The opposition made it 31 every month with 31 days to
protest day. It supported Article 31 of the Constitution,
which guarantees freedom of assembly. The protests were
carried out without permission and were brutally interrupted
by police, who arrested many protesters.
Parliament's lower house, the duma, voted in July through
a contentious bill that extended powers to the FSB security
service. The law was severely criticized by lawyers, and
Medvedev's human rights adviser left his post.
In September, a new political movement was formed under
the name For a Russia without arbitrariness and corruption.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov - who leads the
opposition solidarity group - and former Prime Minister
Michail Kasianov were in the lead. During the year, Nemtsov
published a Putin-critical book, which the police seized in
On October 31, the opposition was unexpectedly allowed to
demonstrate in Moscow. A lot of protesters were arrested,
but the meeting was still seen as something of a
breakthrough. President Medvedev also vetoed a law that
would have restricted the opposition's ability to organize
new protests. But a week later, police officers from the
Special Forces OMON strongly interfered with a
demonstration, entirely according to Prime Minister Putin's
statement that anyone who demonstrates without permission
can count on a baton in the head.
One of the Russian Federation's best-known journalists,
Oleg Kasjin, was assaulted and beaten by two unknown men in
November. He suffered very serious injuries. Kashin had
reported on the Chimski Forest outside Moscow, where
activists had long protested against a controversial highway
construction in a nature-protected area. Many of those who
openly opposed the building had been threatened and beaten.
President Medvedev, however, ordered the road construction
to be temporarily halted in the autumn in order to
investigate the environmental consequences. In November,
hundreds of journalists and bloggers managed to get
permission to demonstrate in central Moscow against the
terror that many media people have been exposed to.
Ultranationalists and right-wing extremists clashed with
people from the Caucasus in bloody riots in Moscow in
December, after a football supporter was shot to death. The
police arrested thousands of people, mostly Caucasians, and
the regime accused the liberal opposition of paving the way
for neo-Nazis and hooligans with their manifestations.
Just before the end of the year, the oil company Yuko's
former CEO Michail Chodorkovsky and one of his business
colleagues were sentenced to six years in prison, accused of
stealing oil for the equivalent of over SEK 200 billion and
washing black money. They both would have been released in
2011 after previous prison sentences. The new ruling was
criticized by the opposition and by Western countries as a
political process against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's
enemies. Putin had described Chodorkovsky as a criminal
before the verdict. The verdict was appealed on the last day
of the year.
The country's worst heat wave in decades caused hundreds
of forest fires during the summer, especially in the western
part of the country. Moscow was swept into smog and the
residents wore respiratory masks. The heat, the drought and
the fires gave rise to misalignment, and a quarter of the
grain harvest was lost. Multibillion amounts were allocated
to farmers in crisis. The Russian Federation stopped its
large export of wheat, which contributed to higher world
The terror continued to plague the federation during the
year. The worst attacks were two suicide bombings in the
Moscow metro in April, when more than 40 people were killed
and 80 were injured. According to police, the killing was
carried out by two women and was believed to be revenge for
a military operation against a village in Ingushia. At the
same time, many policemen were killed in the bombing. Since
the Russian military defeated most of the resistance in
Chechnya, violence in the neighboring republics of Ingushia
and especially Dagestan increased, with frequent assaults
and many deaths. In North Ossetia, suicide bombers killed 17
people and injured over a hundred in September.
A Polish tragedy led to an unexpected rapprochement
between the Russian Federation and Poland. In April, Prime
Minister Putin visited the Russian city of Katyn with the
Polish Prime Minister to honor the memory of the thousands
of Polish officers massacred by the Red Army in 1940. Three
days later, a Polish government plan collapsed with the
Polish presidential couple and a number of leading Poles on
their way to a memorial Katyn. Subsequently, the Russian
Federation published secret documents on the Katyn massacre,
and in November Parliament adopted a statement that the
Katyn massacres were carried out on direct order by Soviet
dictator Josef Stalin. The statement was described as
historical. At the same time, President Medvedev signaled an
upcoming stalinisation campaign. He explained that the past
must be processed by opening secret Soviet archives and
"perpetuating" the sacrifice of the totalitarian regime.
President Medvedev visited Poland at the end of the year.
There were positive signals in relation to the US. In
April, the presidents of the Russian Federation and the
United States signed a new so-called START agreement to
reduce the number of nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers.
NATO declared at its summit in November that it no longer
saw the Russian Federation as an enemy and promised to
increase security cooperation with Moscow. NATO also opened
up for the Russian Federation to participate in the Western
Defense Alliance's planned new missile defense. President
Medvedev reacted positively but stressed that the Russian
Federation must become an equal partner. At the same time,
he emphasized that the alternative to collaboration was
cutting armor. During the fall, the federation participated
in a unique collaboration with the United States in
Afghanistan, where a joint crackdown on drug production was
In May, the Russian Federation joined the UN Security
Council in tightening UN sanctions against Iran for failing
to suspend its nuclear program. Then Moscow stopped the sale
of advanced anti-aircraft robots to Iran, something the US
has long requested.
However, after Medvedev's visit to the White House in
June, a spy deal was unveiled in the United States, with ten
people arrested by the US FBI's suspected police spying for
the Russian Federation.
Relations with China were strengthened. In August, Prime
Minister Putin opened a new oil pipeline from Siberia to
China, and in September, President Medvedev met his Chinese
counterpart in Beijing for talks on new economic
cooperation. The Russian Federation hopes to sell large
quantities of gas to China in the future.
Moscow's incumbent mayor Yuriy Luzhkov - an ally of Prime
Minister Putin - ended up in disgrace with President
Medvedev during the year and was subjected to media
criticism and protest demonstrations. In September, he was
dismissed by Medvedev, who was thus deemed to have proved
that he could make decisions without Putin's approval.
In November, former Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, 72, died.