10 Vladimir Putin Government Facts - WMNews Ep. 20
10 Vladimir Putin Government Facts - WMNews Ep. 20

10 Vladimir Putin Government Facts - WMNews Ep. 20

VOICE OVER: Dan Paradis
Script written by Angela Fafard

As tensions continue to mount between Russia and the West, questions continue to be raised about the man whose first term as President of Russia began at the turn of the 21st century.Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from that breaks down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we're counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Vladimir Putin government.

Script written by Angela Fafard

10 Vladimir Putin Government Facts - WMNews Ep. 20

#10: Who is Vladimir Putin?
The President

Vladimir Putin began his third non-consecutive term as the President of Russia on May 7th, 2012. He was born on October 7th, 1952 in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, in the former Soviet Union, as the youngest of 3 children. Both his brothers died before his birth and his lineage remains a mystery due to a lack of existing records. After graduating from university, he spent some time in the KGB, within the Saint Petersburg administration and the Presidential Administration of Russia under Boris Yeltsin. In August 1999, he was appointed Prime Minister, but his relative anonymity in the country had few expecting this to be a lengthy tenure. However, a mere four months later, Putin became acting President of the Russian Federation when Yeltsin abruptly resigned, beginning his first term as head of state at the turn of the century, while his second term ended in 2008. A poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Foundation showed that Putin enjoyed an 85% trust rating in early 2015, with 74% of those polled saying they would vote for him in the next Presidential election.

#9: How Does the Russian Population View Putin?
The Superputin

Putin’s many years of presidential reign have led to a unique sense of adoration and cult- ike behavior from the majority of the Russian population. This has evolved into the popular term known as “Putinism,” which exemplifies all the ideas, concerns and strategies that his government has undertaken since he was put in power. Despite this name for the system being typically used by western media in a derogatory fashion, Putin’s ideology has helped to sustain his popularity within Russia. Examples of this include a bronze bust of Putin in St. Petersburg covered in the attire of a Roman Emperor that commemorates the allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

#8: Who Opposes Putin?
The Law and Order of Putin

There are several examples appearing to showcase a lack of rule of law within Russia, in the sense that the government has ultimate control, regardless of civil liberties, under Putin’s time in office. This includes the arrest of Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorovsky for fraud in October 2003 and his 9-year prison sentence - despite the lack of due process. Following his 2013 release, Khodorovsky fled to Switzerland and has since referred to himself as a “political prisoner” and a fierce Putin opponent. Almost a dozen years later, in February 2015, another of Putin’s fierce political opponents and former First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was killed on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin. Before his death, Nemtsov had publicly denounced Russia’s involvement in the War in Ukraine, in which more than 7,000 people had been killed in its first year. According to Nemtsov’s close friends, he was preparing to release a report on the deaths of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine. Since his death, there have been several arrests and many theories as to who is responsible, but the Russian state has denied any responsibility.

#7: How Does the World View His Government?
The Kleptocracy

Putin’s government has been harshly condemned, with some stating it resembles a Kleptocracy, whereby those in power work to increase the wealth of officials and the elite to the detriment of the rest of the population. Meanwhile, reports by international human rights organizations on the increase in human rights violations, including discrimination, racism, and the murders of members of ethnic minorities, have contributed to the deterioration of Russia’s image, especially in the western world, and it continued to worsen in the mid-2010s. Such violations expanded on previous laws that have banned the “propaganda of homosexuality” among kids and led to the criminalization of public protests in favor of gay rights. Further human rights violations were exemplified with the 2012 arrest of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who was charged with hooliganism and held in custody after members made a protest performance against the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Putin. Outsiders harshly criticized the 2-year prison sentence they were given. Furthermore, Putin’s government has been accused of restricting freedom of the press on multiple occasions, with more than 47 journalists having been murdered since 1992.

#6: What Happened to Putin?
The Disappearance

The enigma surrounding Putin’s life has been deliberately cultivated, and he is rarely absent from the public eye. So when he disappeared for 10 days in March 2015, the worldwide media was abuzz while millions speculated about what happened to Vladimir Putin. At the end of the ten days, Putin reappeared and scoffed at the outlandish rumors that had arisen. But being synonymous with the Russian government, and as the leader of the former USSR, his absence naturally prompted rumors of chaos within the Kremlin. However, it is unlikely that the world will ever know the reason for his absence, as the Kremlin is reluctant to report on Putin’s personal life or whereabouts. A notable exception to Putin’s constant presence in the public eye was during the Kursk submarine disaster in August 2000. Following the accidental explosion and sinking of the Russian submarine in the Barents Sea, Putin remained on vacation and did not visit the site for several days. This action was considered particularly heartless considering all 118 crewmembers and officers had perished in the explosion.

#5: Is the Putin Government Strong?
The Dismissals

In a shocking turn of events, President Putin fired two senior officials on March 23rd, 2015 amid rumors that there was turmoil within the headquarters of the famously secretive Russian government, otherwise known as the Kremlin. These two officials were the head of the president’s domestic policy department and the head of the international cooperation department. While family reasons were cited for the former, no reasons were given for the latter. The timing of these dismissals is especially surprising considering they occurred only a month after the death of Boris Nemtsov and about a week after Putin’s ten day disappearance, which has fueled rumors that there is growing tension within the government's elite.

#4: How is Russia Involved in the Ukrainian Crisis?
The Peace Deal

With an armed conflict beginning in Ukraine’s Donbass region in April 2014, in which thousands were killed, Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic signed the Minsk Protocol on September 5th of that same year in an attempt to end the fighting. The agreement was unsuccessful, however, so in a desperate attempt to end the war between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed soldiers, a second treaty titled “Minsk II” was signed on February 12th, 2015. While the fighting continued in the city of Kiev, Ukraine, Russia demanded that the countries involved in the talks, such as France and Germany, do more to ensure that the terms reached in the second deal be upheld.

#3: What is the Current State of the Russian Economy?
The Sanctions

As the fighting within Ukraine continued, Russia suffered from extensive Western sanctions meant to force the country into returning Crimea to Ukraine. These sanctions have affected Russian companies as they now have limited access to low interests offered by European banks. Furthermore, an unanticipated decline in oil prices had analysts at Barclays Capital claiming that Russia, one of the largest exporters of oil, would be headed into a “deep recession.” However, this was in direct contrast to a report by Bloomberg, which painted a rosier view of Russia’s economy, showing a rebound in Russian businesses, and a steadying of the nation's currency, the Ruble.

#2: Why is Russia Hosting Conservative Leaders?
The Discussion

On March 22nd, 2015, Russia’s far right pro-Kremlin Rodina party hosted a meeting for Europe’s extremist far right organizations and political factions. Called the International Russian Conservative Forum, the event had over 150 far right representatives in attendance from across Europe, including Nick Griffin, the overthrown leader of the British National Party. While organizers alleged that the forum was held to encourage traditional values and bring together Russian and European groups with similar ideas, critics viewed it as hypocritical, especially considering that the Kremlin views the Ukrainian government as neo-fascist. Although not officially sanctioned by the Russian government, there was no interference by the police during the event, which, by contrast, has been a common occurrence in previously scheduled conferences with a leftist slant or anti-Kremlin agenda.

#1: Will Putin Stay in Power?
The Future

Despite disappearing for a reported ten days, Putin has since emerged stronger than ever in early 2015. That being said, there has been an increase in rumors that all is not well within the Kremlin, that the economy of Russia is poised for a recession and that the continued fighting with Ukraine is leading to a frozen conflict between Russia and the U.S.A. If Putin were to leave office, there are several close high-ranking senior officials with similar views who could replace him and carry forth his political ideologies, which would thereby sustain the Russian political system as it stands in the mid-2010s.

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