Sunday, 2 March 2008

Putin's Russia

So, voting is underway in the Russian presidential elections, and no one is waiting with baited breath for the result. By all accounts, it is now just a matter of time before Dmitry Medvedev is elected the Russian President.

Not only is it a foregone conclusion for Mr Medvedev, given the unfair advantages he has had during this campaign, the Putin backing, and the inevitable voting irregularities, his election will ensure that Putin is still pulling the strings in Russia - as Medvedev has said he will make Putin his Prime Minister!

Vladimir Putin doesn't get as bad a press as he deserves in my opinion. He has presided over severe repression of Russian citizens, corruption and wide inequalities. For the minority of rich people in Russia, it's a great place to live. For everyone else, the future is bleak. The poverty that exists in Russia, for me, is very distinctive. Russia is not a developing country, and so people there aren't poor because there isn't industry and wealth in the country. They are poor because of corruption.

For all his faults, Yeltsin, at least started to take Russia in the right direction - he was at least interested in democracy. Putin's tenure as President demonstrates that he is not a democrat. His actions in Chechnya make him a war criminal. Those who speak out against Putin would not notice any difference from the way their voices were repressed under the Soviet regime. Young men are conscripted into the army, and kept in conditions in which it would be illegal to keep a dog in this country. The judiciary, although there are many people within it who are honest, is not independent of the Kremlin. If somebody in officialdom in Russia doesn't do what they are told, they are replaced by somebody who will. People often 'disappear'. The worlds of business and crime are inseparable. Not because everyone involved in business is corrupt, but because the only way to survive in the world of business is to be corrupt, or at the very least they have to pay off the crime lords. There are many documented cases of criminals buying up an operational factory, bleeding the business dry as a way of moving money around, the workers are never paid and they have no money for food. Young girls list prostitution as one of their top 'career choices' because they know that's about the only way they will be able to make money to scrape an existence out of this world. HIV rates in Russia are shockingly high. The prisons are bulging with young women with HIV, and they will receive no treatment.

I could go on, but it's far too depressing. And later on this evening, Russia will have 'elected' a new President who offers no hope of improvement. With Putin by his side as Prime Minister, what hope does Russia have?

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