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http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/1...-medvedev-putin

Russia has huge political and economic problems, says Dmitry Medvedev

President's assessment of ineffective economy and weak democracy stops short of blaming Vladimir Putin

Luke Harding in Moscow

guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 September 2009 13.34 BST

Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, has admitted that his country faces appalling structural problems including a weak democracy, shrinking population, and a non-performing economy.

In a withering assessment of the country, Medvedev avoided criticising Vladimir Putin, the man in charge for most of the last decade and now prime minister, but said Russia had so far failed to fulfil its enormous potential.

The country faced vast social challenges, he said, including corruption, a feeble civil society, terrorism, alcoholism, and smoking. Russia was also in the grip of a poverty-fuelled insurgency across its North Caucasus, he added.

"An ineffective economy, a semi-Soviet social sphere, a weak democracy, negative demographic trends and an unstable Caucasus. These are very big problems even for a state like Russia," Medevdev wrote in his official blog.

The president also conceded that Russia's vertically controlled political system – in which all opposition parties have been squeezed out – was not ideal.

Its democracy should be "open, flexible, and complex" with "competitive elections", he suggested.

Most commentators were left underwhelmed by Medvedev's comments – which follow a number of recent attempts by the president to shape the debate over Russia's future. Most Russians continue to believe that it is Putin who runs the country.

The newspaper Vedomosti noted that Medvedev – a former St Petersburg lawyer – used the word "but" 18 times in his article, and the word "of course" nine times.

It was pointless to call for modernisation and innovation while the Putin-led Russian government was doling out billions to inefficient state-run firms, the paper noted.

Political commentators have spent the past year scanning for signs of a split between Putin and Medvedev. The current consensus is that there isn't one. In his article, addressed to Russia's "dear citizens", Medevev was careful not to blame Putin, his mentor.

Experts said that Medvedev did not appear to recognise that, as president, it was his task to solve Russia's manifold problems. "You have to ask Medvedev some primitive questions. What are you doing? You are the president. You have all the constitutional powers," said Andrei Ryabov, a scholar at Moscow's Carnegie Centre.

Ryabov said that Russian bloggers had reacted sceptically to the article – ahead of Medvedev's once-yearly state of the nation speech next month. "They point out that if Medvedev was serious he would dismiss his government," he said. Asked whether the president's speech was "hot air", he replied: "Something like that."

Putin is due to give his own assessment of the health of the nation later today during a meeting with international journalists, including the Guardian, at his dacha just outside Moscow.

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Was this because they decided to rely on oil?

I thought that Russia was resource rich? Or have the oligarchs screwed everyone over for a quick profit?

The kleptocrat mafia-man Yeltsin gave the resources to his mates: think "the phoenix four" but on a massively bigger scale. And anyone who dares to raise an eyebrow at that incurs the wrath of the west: people like our idiot foreign secretary.

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An anecdote. My dad was working in Russia a few weeks ago. He has been all over through the years. I have never heard him so scathing of a country. Just nasty. Everything was just nasty. He hopes he never has to go back.

Now of course it was only a few areas of the country he was in. However the impression was horrific.

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Was this because they decided to rely on oil?

I thought that Russia was resource rich? Or have the oligarchs screwed everyone over for a quick profit?

They still haven't recovered from the whole sale asset theft by the capitalist post perestroyka.

So much damage was done. But one-day they will recover.

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NO.1 - CORRUPTION

This is what happens when you run an economy for the benefit of a very few, no trickle down, no proper investment, no mass consumption/growth - just more corruption.

This country is headed the same way except instead of oligarchs there are the favoured monopolies who get to steal from the taxpayer.

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The kleptocrat mafia-man Yeltsin gave the resources to his mates: think "the phoenix four" but on a massively bigger scale. And anyone who dares to raise an eyebrow at that incurs the wrath of the west: people like our idiot foreign secretary.

+1

Our government has been a disgrace in all this.

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