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Yearbook 1999

Russian Federation. It was a dramatic year in Russian politics with two dismissed governments, a major war against Chechnya and the sudden resignation of President Boris Yeltsin.

1999 Russia

Everything was played out in the background of a deep economic crisis. According to Countryaah official website, the consequences of the previous year's ruble crash continued to plague the Russian Federation. Productivity and real income were halved compared to 1989. In practice, the Russian Federation had suspended its payments, as the new IMF loans negotiated during the year would only be used to pay off old foreign debt. Capital equivalent to several thousand billion SEK had been brought out of the country during the 1990s, and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov tried to tackle the corruption among the so-called oligarchs, financiers with ties to the political elite. State Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov investigated suspected corruption of, among other things, financier Boris Berezovsky, influential friend of President Yeltsin's family. Berezovsky ended up in prosecution, and some of the shady shops seemed to have connections to Yeltsin's daughter and sister. Yeltsin tried to dismiss the prosecutor, but the Federation Council, the upper house, refused to approve his dismissal application.

1999 RussiaPrimakov received an increasingly strong popular support and was seen by many as a future president. But Yeltsin stopped Primakov by abruptly dismissing him in May. The physically weak Yeltsin was forced time and time again during the year to hospital care, but stood up constantly and showed who had the formal power.

To Primakov's successor as head of government, Yeltsin appointed the more loyal Home Minister Sergei Stepashin. He was surprisingly quickly approved by the duma, and Yeltsin won the tug-of-war against the duma even when it came to the national prosecution case against him that has long been discussed in the lower house. None of the five charges, including the war against Chechnya 1994-96, gathered sufficient support in the Duma vote in mid-May.

After only three months, in early August, Yeltsin also sacked Stepasjin and replaced him with Vladimir Putin, until then head of the Federal Security Service FSB (heir to the KGB) and secretary of the mighty Security Council. Putin became the fifth Yeltsin Prime Minister in 17 months. The president declared that Putin was now his candidate for the 2000 presidential election, he himself would not run for office. The shift came shortly after Moscow's mayor Yuriy Luzhkov had created a electoral cooperation between his political movement The Fatherland and the movement All Russia. By his maneuver, Luzhkov had emerged as Yeltsin's main challenger to the elections. Assessors also believed that Putin's experience with the security service would be an asset to the Yeltsin corruption-accused circuit.

Islamic rebels from the breakaway republic of Chechnya had entered the southern Russian republic of Dagestan in early August and taken control of some mountain villages. Led by field commanders Shamil Basayev and Khattab, the rebels proclaimed an independent Islamic state in the area. Putin ordered the Russian army to attack the rebels, and fierce battles with losses on both sides were fought for a few weeks before the rebels were forced back into Chechnya.

In September, a series of powerful bombs exploded in Dagestan and Moscow. Over 300 people were killed in total and many were injured in the death. The Russian authorities claimed that the perpetrators were Chechens. From Moscow, thousands of Caucasians were displaced, and in the mass media and with the public, a racist campaign against Caucasus peoples was conducted.

In September, the Russian Federation attacked Chechnya in a land and air war that would eventually include over 100,000 soldiers, harvest thousands of lives, and send hundreds of thousands of refugees to flight. (See also Chechnya-Ingushenia.) The war was still going on at the end of the year. With intensive propaganda in mass media, the Kremlin gained public support for the war, which favored Putin and his support parties ahead of the December parliamentary elections. At the same time, the regime's main opponent Luzhkov was thrown into the media.

The largest in the election was the Communist Party, which gained 24.4%, an increase of a few percentage points. But most successful was the newly formed Unity, which lacked political program and had emerged as a power base for Putin. Consensus went from nothing to 23.7%. Putin's Allied Right Union gained 8.7%, while the Fatherland/Whole Russia took 12.1%. Many independent candidates were expected to support Putin, who could thus take over control of the state duma from the communists.

In foreign policy, the relationship between the Russian Federation and the Western world deteriorated significantly during the year. The Kosovo crisis triggered NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in March, and in the Kremlin they were overrun by the West and reacted bitterly. Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, however, participated in the mediation that led to an end to the war. But in the international peacekeeping force that then entered Kosovo, the Russian alliances ended up in the middle, which increased Russian dissatisfaction.

In the autumn and winter the roles were changed. From the West - the OSCE, the EU and the US - came increasingly strong criticism of the Russian Federation's war in Chechnya. Boris Yeltsin responded that the United States could not dictate anything to the Russian Federation, recalling the existence of the Russian nuclear weapons. It happened during a visit to Beijing in December when Yeltsin demonstrated agreement with China's leaders. Subsequently, the Russian Duma rejected the government's proposal to debate and ratify the nearly seven-year-old Start-2 agreement with the United States on a sharp reduction in the number of nuclear warheads. At the same time, the duma voted through the union agreement with Belarus criticized by the United States. The two countries will remain independent, but must coordinate legislation and have close military cooperation and in the long term obtain common currency.

On the last day of the year, Boris Yeltsin departed surprisingly, six months before the planned presidential election. Thus, the election was postponed earlier, until March 26, 2000. Prime Minister Putin was appointed acting president, and one of his first measures was to issue a decree guaranteeing freedom of prosecution for Yeltsin.

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