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Putin's progress - a decade in power

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Putin's progress - a decade in power


End of year celebrations in Russia tonight will mark a special moment for Vladimir Putin and his appearance on the world stage.

Ten years ago he was virtually unknown outside Russia.

But he suddenly became Acting President when Boris Yeltsin stunned the world by announcing his resignation on New Year’s Eve.

Yeltsin topped that surprise with another, proposing Putin as his replacement, the man he had only months before appointed prime minister.

After convincingly winning a electoral victory a few months later, the little-known former KGB agent, now turned sporty statesman, was determined to end the chaos and instability that symbolised the final years of Yeltsin’s rule.

He brought the Duma, the unruly parliament, under his control, and later abolished the direct election of regional governors. Tough moves which won popular support.

Political analyst, Maria Lipman says: “Putin capitalised on the sense of resentment and frustration that existed among the Russia people at the end of the 90s.”

“He quickly moved to abolish political participation, political competition and reinstated a system of state monopoly on policy-making and decision-making in Russia,” she adds.

Next in line was Russia’s mass media. Putin realised that most Russians got their news from national television and quickly moved to bring them back under state control.

While Putin exerted control over the country’s political life, life for the average Russian improved.

The boom in oil and gas prices made many Russians rich and a new middle-class emerged in the country’s largest cities. Few seemed to mind that prosperity came at the expense of political freedom.

Putin took on Russia’s powerful oligarchs, the men Yeltsin had helped get rich in return for their support. They were given a stark choice: keep your money but stay out of politics.

All did except Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man and head of oil giant, Yukos.

In 2005 he was sentenced to 8 years in jail for fraud and tax evasion.

Putin marginalised the liberal opposition and, critics say, those who silenced his challengers went unpunished.

The highest-profile death was that of Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead, execution style in her apartment. No-one has been charged with killing the prominent journalist who was a fierce critic of Putin’s regime.

Since becoming prime minister under Dmitry Medvedev, his chosen successor as president, Putin has remained in the headlines.

For the last year and a half he has remained in the headlines and many believe he still runs the country from his office in the Russian White House.

Russia’s economy is hugely dependent on oil and gas and although corruption still plagues the country, it has regained its status as a superpower.

But the question still remains: will Putin’s popularity continue and allow him to run for the presidency again in two year’s time?

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