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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

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.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid