Russia Border Map

Yearbook 2003

Russian Federation. According to Countryaah.com, Russia Independence Day is June 12. The US-led war against Iraq presented the Russian Federation with a foreign policy dilemma at the beginning of the year. President Vladimir Putin, on the one hand, tried to guard the relationship with the United States by supporting colleague George W. Bush’s view that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction threaten world peace. On the other hand, Putin joined the line of France and Germany that war should be avoided in the long run and that the UN must decide the Iraq issue.

When the attack began in March without UN approval, the Russian Federation withdrew from the war, which for a time deteriorated Moscow’s relations with Washington. There was a strong popular opinion in the Russian Federation against the Iraq war, but judges believed that Moscow’s line was more determined by the concern that the war would damage the extensive Russian oil interests in Iraq. At the same time, the Russian Federation was anxious that Iraq would have a regime prepared to pay the large debts the country had to Moscow since the Soviet era. When Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had fallen in April, the Russian Federation’s relations with the United States were soon restored. At St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary in June, there was a cordial meeting between Putin and Bush. Putin was forced to balance his concessions to the West against the demands of conservative forces at home. In the fall, he and Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov reminded that the Russian Federation still has nuclear weapons as a political deterrent. Ivanov, however, explained that Moscow sees no scenario where one would be the first to use them.

The economic stability of the Russian Federation seemed threatened during the summer since police with automatic weapons made a dawn attack on the country’s largest oil company Yukos. The company’s main owner and CEO, Mikhail Chodorkovsky, was questioned and his closest husband Plato Lebedev was arrested. Yuko’s shares fell sharply and pulled down the Moscow Stock Exchange. Formally, Yukos was charged with tax fraud and Lebedev for fraud in the 1990s privatization. But according to analysts, it was a power struggle between the Kremlin and the so-called oligarchs of big finance.

Ahead of the December parliamentary elections and the 2004 presidential elections, Putin was considered to intimidate Chodorkovsky, who had given financial support to the opposition, especially the Liberal parties Jabloko and the Right Union (SPS). It was speculated that Chodorkovsky’s goal was to stop the government’s plans to raise taxes for oil exports. The conflict temporarily subsided when the government gave green light to the merger of Yukos and another major oil company, Sibneft. But in October, Chodorkovsky was suddenly arrested by the security services and he was also accused of fraud in connection with privatizations. The arrest resulted in the resignation of the Kremlin chief of staff. He was said to have backed Chodorkovsky, who is considered the richest man of the Russian Federation. At the end of the year, the planned merger between Yukos and Sibneft was canceled.

The war in Chechnya continued to cast its shadow over the Russian Federation. Following a controversial presidential election in July in Putin’s republic, Putin killed 15 people and 50 were injured when two female suicide bombers fired explosives during a rock festival in Moscow. As with several fatalities during the year, the authorities blamed Chechen separatists.

In October, the threat to freedom of the press was made clear when a Russian editor-in-chief, known for investigative reports on corruption and crime, was murdered. Ahead of the December election to Parliament’s lower house, the Duma, the press was forbidden to report on how the candidates fulfilled previous electoral promises, while favoring President Putin’s support party United Russia (formerly United Russia) in the large, Kremlin faithful media. OSCE observers were very critical of the unfair electoral movement.

United Russia clearly won the election with 37% of the vote. The Communist Party made big losses and stayed at just over 12%, while the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrats doubled and got close to 12%. The newly created Nationalist Motherland, which supported Putin, took 9% after an aggressive campaign against the arrested Yuko chief and other oligarchs. The West-friendly and liberal Jabloko and SPS were linked with the oligarchs and both ended up under the five percent barrier. The new duma thus gained a clear majority of parties and independent members who supported Putin.

The Kremlin signaled at the end of the year that the Russian Federation will not ratify the Kyoto international agreement on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

1996 Yeltsin is re-elected president

The communist victory led Yeltsin to fear that the party would win the July 96 presidential election. Privatization slowed down and Yevgeny Primakov was appointed Foreign Minister. He was a Soviet diplomat and had been closely associated with Gorbachov. All the opposition presidential candidates from Gorbachov to Zhuganov criticized the rampant financial speculation in the country, the regime’s corruption, the mafia and Yeltsin the “clan”. The advancement of the opposition forced the already weakened Yeltsin to stand for a second term as President of the Republic, and in the second round of elections he defeated Zhuganov by 53.8% against 40% – 4.8% voted against both candidates. The president prevailed after forming an unexpected alliance with former Soviet aviation general Alexandr Lebed. He had faced Yeltsin in the first round, and had drawn 11 million votes.

Lebed was now appointed security adviser, and he immediately took steps to end the war in Chechnya, which had already killed 80,000 people. When it was announced in September that Yeltsin had to undergo surgery, Lebed and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin came to face each other as possible alternatives to power should Yeltsin fall away. Lebed’s popularity increased drastically as it managed to get a ceasefire deal in place with the Chechen rebels. Still, Chernomyrdin won the power struggle, and Lebed was dismissed as a security adviser. Chernomyrdin, as chairman of the country’s largest and wealthiest company, Gazprom, had a significant share of the new Russian citizenship in the back and was also supported by Yeltsin, who feared that Lebed would quickly maneuver Yeltsin himself.

After a lengthy re-election, in March 97, Yeltsin resumed his job as president, reshaping his government and launching a long-term program to reduce state spending and implement privatizations. Living conditions for the majority of the population were getting worse. The chaotic transition to market economy put a significant part of the production apparatus out of the game, removed the social security network that had existed before and created a fruitful foundation for the development of a comprehensive economic mafia. About 73% of the banking sector was under its control.

On May 12, Yeltsin signed the final peace agreement with Chechnya, which gained extensive autonomy. On the same day, the Russian central bank signed an agreement with the Chechnya bank, which gave the two countries the ruble as a single currency, but without Moscow having any influence on the Chechen transactions.

An explosion in the coal mine Zeryanovoskaja in December 97 killed 60 miners, revealing once again the miserable safety conditions under which workers in this sector worked. Over the previous 5 years, 1720 miners had died in accidents.

Russia’s economic crisis worsened during 98. In the Soviet period, government spending had been financed through corporate profits, but this system had been abolished with the collapse of the system, and no new effective direct taxation system, as known from, among other things, had been built. Denmark. At the same time, a significant part of industrial production had been discontinued. The consequence was that the state had a huge deficit and did not have the means to pay salaries to the government employees – neither teachers, miners nor soldiers. Still, when the Russians were able to survive despite being 6-10 months behind in wages, this was partly due to widespread solidarity between the Russians themselves and that a significant part of the economy was based on self-sufficiency. When public servants were not paid, they had to grow their own food.

Still, the discontent rose steadily. As on several previous occasions, the miners led the protests against the government, and in August 98 the Russian financial market collapsed. The crisis immediately became political. Yeltsin fired his young reform-minded Prime Minister Kirienko, who was replaced with Chernomyrdin who was brought in from the cold. However, he only lasted a few days before Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was made prime minister. Primakov, an educated economist, succeeded in renegotiating the country’s foreign debt with the international institutions without promising concrete changes. However, stricter budgetary controls were carried out and the government actively intervened in the economy. Inflationpeaked at 84% in 1998 against 11% in 97. GDP fell by 5% and real income fell by 15.5%. The ruble was devalued by 74% against the dollar.

In foreign policy, Primakov turned the policy in a direction that diminished dependence on Washington, and in December 98 he opposed Blair’s and Clinton’s decision to bomb Iraq.

However, the events in Yugoslavia at the beginning of 1999 showed that Moscow’s ability to prevent NATO’s entry into Russia’s historic allies in the Balkans was zero. Russia’s attempt to mediate the conflict was ignored by the NATO alliance, and after the end of NATO’s war against Yugoslavia in June 99, only a symbolic Russian “peace force” was allowed participation in the UN force in Kosova.

Primakov built such a significant popularity that it overshadowed Yeltsin, which convinced the president that the government needed to be transformed again. During the NATO bombings in May, Primakov was replaced by Sergei Stepashin, who in August was himself replaced by Vladimir Putin.

In August 1999, a group of partisans from Chechnya crossed the border to Dagestan, where they occupied several cities. After several weeks of fighting, the Russian forces succeeded in throwing out the Chechens. Subsequently, a series of bomb attacks were carried out against civilian buildings in Moscow. They killed dozens of Muscovites, and Chechen terrorists were believed to be behind the attacks. It prompted the Russian army to launch a new offensive against the autonomous republic, which had been virtually independent since 1996, even though it had not been internationally recognized. The newly inaugurated Prime Minister Putin promised to recapture Chechnya for Russia. But despite the use of all military means, after eight months of fighting, only just succeeded in bringing peace to Grozny and the central part of the country, while the partisans remained strong in the mountains.

2000 Yeltsin is followed by Putin

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin surprisingly withdrew, leaving the government in Putin’s hands. The president’s political moves surprised the opposition. Primakov had until then been one of the most important candidates as Yeltsin’s successor, but he had to resign as he failed to reconcile a political alliance against Yeltsin’s own crown prince, Putin. The presidential election was held on March 26, 2000, and already gave 52.9% of the vote to Putin in the first round. In second place, Communist Genadi Zhuganov got 29.2%. The election was marked by a wide range of irregularities criticized by Zhuganov. After 6 months of investigations, the irregularities were revealed by the Moscow Times newspaper.

Although the Russian forces had been reduced from 5 million men to 1.2 during the 1990s, the Russian army remained one of the world’s largest. However, the military was still plagued by serious problems: in Chechnya it had not been able to fight the guerrillas. 118 died. It merely emphasized the military’s use of endowed and poorly maintained equipment. In September, Putin declared that the military would be reduced by a further 1/3 to be transformed into a “compact and modern” combat force.

During his first reorganization in March 2001, Putin appointed the first civilian ever to the post of Minister of Defense: Sergei Ivanov. Putin said the transformation happened to demilitarize Russian social life, which was part of his plan to cut the military down by a third and turn it into a “compact and modern force.” However, even after the reduction, the army is still one of the largest in the world.

During the period 1992-2000, the Russian population had decreased by 2.8 million. and in 2001 it was reduced by another 700,000. Extreme right-wing politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky has previously proposed to compensate for the demographic decline through polygamy: “allow men to have up to 4 wives”. Now he called for “increasing the country’s declining population” and legalizing abortion.

Official statistics revealed that every third Russian lives in poverty, that pensions have fallen below the subsistence level and that 60% of the country’s pensioners are at risk. The Minister of Labor and Social Development, Alexander Pochinok, acknowledged in July 2001 that public sector workers have the lowest wages in the country and are unable to cover their families’ basic necessities. In some sectors such as agriculture, health, education and intellectual production, the proportion of poor reaches 60%. The gap between the country’s 10% richest and 10% poorest has grown every year since the transition to capitalism. While the richest 10% in 1992 had earned 8 times more than the 10% poorest, the ratio in 2001 had risen to 14.

In December, the Duma adopted the first deficit budget since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The fall in oil and gas prices following the September 9 terrorist attack on New York had already forced the Russian Finance Minister to draft a new budget because prices had fallen more than anticipated when the original budget was laid. Russia had become the world’s second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia.

In January 2002, the TV station TV-6 – Russia’s last independent national TV station – was forced to close by Moscow’s Supreme Court. The channel’s main shareholder, Boris Berezovsky, was a sharp critic of Putin, and opposition politicians and journalists therefore considered it another step by the president to bring the independent media under his control.

In July, Parliament passed a reform that, for the first time since the 1917 revolution, made it possible to sell agricultural land when the buyer was a Russian.

In October 2002, a group of Chechen rebels stormed a theater in Moscow, taking 800 spectators and actors hostage, demanding a change in Russian policy in Chechnya. Three days later, elite soldiers stormed the theater. They used poison gas at intake. It cost 120 hostages and most of the surviving 650 suffered serious health damage. All 50 rebels were killed by the soldiers. The ambulance people and doctors on site had not been informed that gas was being used and therefore had no antidote for the poisoned. Furthermore, not many doctors were present, and those who did not know how to deal with the disaster. The international community supported the campaign against the terrorists, but demanded that the Russians disclose the gas.

The government itself called the “rescue operation” a triumph and regarded the dead as the price that had to be paid to save the majority. Putin, however, gave his condolences to the families of the slain. Putin gave the military new powers of power in its fight against terrorism, with the aim of “crushing” the Chechen rebels. Amnesty International has continued the responsibility of the Russian military for the serious human rights violations taking place in Chechnya – including torture, killing and rape.

Acc. a number of analysts say multinational interests are behind the conflict between Russia and Chechnya. This applies to major oil companies Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Unocal, which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, struggle to open the door to the Caspian Sea oil wells. The battle for control of the oil has prompted the United States to support the construction of a 1750 km-long oil pipeline, which is to transport $ 1 million daily. barrels of oil from Bakú to Turkey – outside Iran.

In March 2003, Russia, along with most other countries, opposed the US war on Iraq because it had not been approved by the UN. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was of the opinion that the war weakened the alliance of countries against terrorism that had been formed after September 11.

Pressure to leave Russia increased. In the first 6 months of 2003, 12,700 residents applied for recognition as refugees at foreign embassies in Moscow.

In March 2004, Putin was re-elected as president with 70% of the vote. The president formulated the goal of doubling Russia’s GDP in the period 2005-10 and reducing poverty by at least 12%. At the same time, he declared war on the “drug addict”. Unofficial talk about the existence of 5 million. drug addicts in Russia. Foreign policy, he demanded US and coalition troops out of Iraq. The Foreign Minister of Video defined the United States and Russia as two countries with a shared responsibility as protectors of security in the world, which is why they have to work together in the fight against terrorism. That same month, the Moscow metro was hit by a terrorist attack that cost 40 dead.

In January-March 2004, 43 disappearances occurred in Chechnya. In some of these, like the disappearance of human rights activist Aslan Davletukaev, there were soldiers and military vehicles involved. Davletukaev was abducted and abused by 50 Russian soldiers. His body was found Jan. 16 by a road. The curfew in the capital Grosny is constantly violated by gangs of Russian soldiers and by gangs loyal to Chechen President Kadyrov. They plunder and rape.

On May 9, 2004, the President of Chechnya, the Moscow Magistrate Akhmad Kadyrov was assassinated by an attack in Grosny. Prime Minister Sergey Abramov was inaugurated as constituted president.

On 15-16. On April, 500 civilian Russians were evacuated from Iraq for security reasons. That happened with the Russian Foreign Minister’s approval. Still, the staff of the Russian embassy in Baghdad were not pulled home. “Russia does not leave Iraq. We remain interested in bilateral relations. As the situation improves, we will return, ”a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. The evacuees were predominantly employees of Russian companies working in the cities of Nasiria, Kharta and Najibia.

In May, the EU agreed to include Russia as a member of the WTO in the near future. After six years of negotiations where Russia solved a number of problems that hindered its accession, an agreement was signed in the Kremlin between Russian Finance Minister German Gref and EU Commissioner Pascal Lamy, which removed further obstacles to Russia’s entry into the WTO. The country is the only major economy in the world that remains outside the trade organization. However, it must continue to negotiate its admission with the US and China. Following the agreement, Putin stated that Russia will promote activities to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Russia Border Map