The Truth About Putin and Medvedev

Putin. Itogi. Nezavisimyi Ekspertnyi Doklad (Putin: The Results: An Independent Expert Report)

by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov
Moscow: Novaya Gazeta,76 pp., 50 rubles

As he prepares to step down from the Russian presidency in early May, Vladimir Putin has been boasting about his accomplishments. In a speech to the State Council on February 8, he talked of the stability that his government had established, thanks to which “people once more have confidence that life will continue to change for the better.” A few days later, during the last of his long annual press conferences as president of the Russian Federation, Putin said: “I have worked like a galley slave throughout these eight years, morning till night, and I have given all I could to this work. I am happy with the results.”

That Putin’s hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, won the presidential election on March 2 with 70 percent of the vote doubtless boosted Putin’s ego further, although, because of strict new election rules and the Kremlin’s control of the press and television, there were no other serious competitors on the ballot. Medvedev announced before the election that he would make Putin his prime minister, and Putin immediately agreed to serve. Thus, when they went to the polls, Russians assumed that a vote for Medvedev would ensure that Putin stayed on as supreme leader, at least for some time. And this, according to opinion surveys, is what most of them want.1

As popular as President Putin is among Russians, largely because of Russia’s economic growth, there are those who disagree strongly with positive assessments of his presidency. Among them are Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, authors of a short book titled Putin: The Results: An Independent Expert Report, published in Moscow just a few days before Putin’s last press conference.2 Both Nemtsov and Milov are highly regarded liberal democrats with inside knowledge of the Kremlin. Nemtsov, who has a Ph.D. in physics and mathematics, was a popular governor of the Nizhny-Novgorod region before serving as a first deputy prime minister of Russia under Boris Yeltsin in 1997–1998. He was a co-founder of the liberal democratic Union of Right Forces (Soyuz Pravykh Sil, or SPS) and served as a member of the Russian parliament, the Duma, until his party lost its seats in the December 2003 elections. Nemtsov, now forty-nine, has since then continued to be an important member of the political opposition to President Putin. (He was arrested briefly in November 2007 for taking part in a protest rally in St. Petersburg.)

Nemtsov’s thirty-five-year-old co-author, Milov, is a respected specialist in energy policy. As deputy minister of energy in 2002, he worked on designing market reforms within the Russian gas, electricity, and railway industries. But the government stalled on carrying out his reforms and he resigned in late 2002. Since then, Milov has headed the Institute for Energy Policy, an independent economic think tank in Moscow, while contributing frequently to the liberal Russian press. He was among those invited to the US embassy in Moscow in March to brief visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the political situation in Russia.

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