News / Europe

    Political Crackdown Marks Putin’s First Year Back in Kremlin

    Political Crackdown Marks Putin’s First Year Back in Kremlini
    X
    May 04, 2013 12:36 AM
    One year ago, on May 7, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin to serve another term as president, after a four-year stretch out of the spotlight as Russia’s prime minister. Angry protests greeted Putin’s return. James Brooke takes stock of Putin’s first year.
    James Brooke
    One year ago, on May 7, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin to serve another term as president, after a four-year stretch out of the spotlight as Russia’s prime minister.

    Angry protests greeted his return, and his inauguration motorcade flew through the empty streets of Moscow, emptied by a five-day holiday and by riot police flown in from as far away as Siberia.
     
    Today, analysts say President Putin spent his first year methodically cracking down on Russia’s opposition. This crackdown goes beyond the symbolic restoration of street patrols by Cossacks, the whip wielding enforcers of Czarist days.

    “The tactics are destroying the opposition, destroying the protest movement by persecuting, imprisoning, marginalizing, forcing to emigrate - whatever,” says Dmitry Suslov, international affairs professor at the Higher School of Economics.

    The Kremlin sent a high profile signal with last summer’s trial of Pussy Riot, a female punk band that protested in Moscow’s main cathedral. Two of the women are serving two-year jail sentences.
     
    Now it is the turn of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most popular opposition leader. He is on trial in a provincial city, 1,000 kilometers from his power base here.

    Wider crackdown
     
    Opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov says the trials reflect a wider crackdown that President Putin started after returning to the Kremlin one year ago.
     
    “Putin and his parliament enacted an entire series of laws aimed at prohibition: the prohibition of protests, the prohibition of the freedom of expression, the prohibition of criticizing the government and church,” said Ryzhkov, co-chairman of the Republican Party of Russia, a new group.
     
    Today, street protests are smaller than a year ago.

    In a new campaign, government inspectors are visiting hundreds of non-governmental organizations, trying to prove that they receive foreign donations and should be classified as “foreign agents.”
     
    Inspectors visited the human rights group Memorial and demanded 9,000 pages of documents.
     
    “They define any kind of influence on society or on the state as political activity,” Alexander Cherkasov, chairman of Memorial Human Rights Center, said as photocopying machines could be heard cranking away in the background. “All these checks were aimed at bringing Russian organizations under the context of the law on foreign agents.”

    "Open roads"
     
    But Putin supporters, like Ekaterina Stenyakina, a leader of Young Guard, note that public opinion polls routinely give Mr. Putin approval ratings over 60 percent.

    People who don’t like the government, she said, are free to act.
     
    “Tell me, do these laws somehow restrict civic activism?” she asked. “I don’t think so. You want a party? Please, go ahead. You want a public tribune? Everywhere there are open roads for absolutely everyone.”
     
    Some Russian opposition leaders are shifting from organizing street protests to fielding candidates in Russia’s two-year series of local elections that starts this September.
     
    Vladimir Milov chairs another new opposition party, Democratic Choice: “If you have clear, viable forces - parties, candidates for mayor - who actually are capable of winning support and being attractive to voters - this is where the authorities will not be able to survive, even with like 10-15 percent fraud.”
     
    Now, a big stress test looms for Putin.

    Russia’s key oil and gas exports are down. Squeezed by Europe’s recession to the west and China’s slowdown to the east, Russia’s economy may record zero growth this year.

    This is far from the goal of five percent annual growth set when Putin returned to the Kremlin, only one year ago.

    With energy earnings falling by billions of dollars, cuts in public services can be expected to increase discontent in Russia.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora