As we have seen from today’s news, some protests designed to coordinate with the St Petersburg Economic Forum have had more success than others. Whilst a piece of libidinous graffiti has seemingly escaped the eye of the authorities, 100,000 copies of Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov’s joint-authored ‘Putin: Results.10 Years’, intended for distribution to the guests of the forum, have, according to RFE/RL, been seized by police. Paul Goble on Eurasia Review provides a useful overview of the pamphlet’s contents:
First, the new book says, “corruption has reached catastrophic proportions,” with Russia according to Transparency International now ranked “among the most backward African countries.” Moreover, the two authors suggest, Putin’s associates have benefited from this with many of his oldest friends becoming “dollar billionaires.”
Second, during the Putin years, Nemtsov and Milov say, “Russia has been losing about 500,000 people annually, become of [factors like] extremely low life expectancies, super-high mortality from alcoholism [among working-age men], and a low level [and poor quality] of health care.”
Third, “over the ten years, Russia’s “dependency on the export of raw materials has only increased,” from 44 percent of all exports in 2000 to 65 percent now.
Fourth, the country’s road system, never good, has deteriorated further, with construction of new roads having been cut in half because of corruption.
Fifth, despite Putin’s repeated claims to have pacified the NorthCaucasus and despite Moscow’s pouring five to six billion US dollars ayear into that region, much of which has been stolen by corruptofficials and others, “over the course of ten years, the number ofterrorist acts rose more than six times.”
Sixth, social inequality has increased, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, especially in the crisis years.
Seventh, the book notes that despite budget deficits, the Putin regimehas wasted money on things like preparing for the Sochi Olympics andbuilding gas pipelines of various kinds.
And eighth, Nemtsov and Milov conclude, Putin and his cronies haveraided the pension fund for their own purposes, leaving Russia’s agingpopulation with few prospects for a dignified retirement. Adding insultto injury, they write, Putin wants to increase their taxes and raisethe retirement age.
None of these charges are new, but the decision of Nemtsov and Milov tocombine them, their collection of compelling data, and their publishingof this book in an accessible format means that it is quite probablethat it will not only attract widespread attention but also spark newdebates about Putin.
The former president and current prime minister certainly won’t bepleased. But it is unlikely that he will sue as Yuri Luzhkov did whenNemtsov criticized him. That action backfired on the Moscow mayor. Butit is entirely possible that some Putin backers may be ready to act injust the same way the St. Petersburg militia appears already to havedone.