Putin did not have a presidential programme: neither economic nor political, no programme at all. There was no normal presidential campaign either — he did not meet with ordinary voters, did not travel to the impoverished Russian cities. There was no debate — he had nothing to respond to difficult and sensitive questions. But on [the presidential election day] 18 March, 2018, Putin became President again, leading the country for the fifth time in a row. In August, a hundred days from the date of his next coming to his new old office.
One hundred days is a short period of time, but important. Historians believe that the first hundred days are principled for understanding and assessing real presidential intentions. On the first hundred days, one can largely judge what will happen in the country with the newly elected president. Because it is during this period that the new president, as a rule, has the greatest strength and influence and can do a lot of useful things.
For example, Franklin Roosevelt, who became US President in the midst of the Great Depression, the most powerful economic crisis in the United States, passed 15 basic laws during his first hundred days in the White House — on helping the poor, restoring confidence in banks and reducing unemployment. Many of these laws are still in force. President Lyndon Johnson in his first hundred days introduced major changes in the electoral legislation, improved the health care system for the elderly and significantly increased expenditures on education. Ronald Reagan came to power in a period of huge unemployment and high inflation. In the first two months he introduced large-scale economic proposals that subsequently led to a significant reduction in taxes and a reduction in the size of the government. Barack Obama became President shortly after the collapse of the banking system in 2008 and 30 days later he signed a law on economic aid which resulted in the creation of new jobs in the country and reconstruction of infrastructure. In the same hundred days he introduced equal pay for women.
And what the first hundred days of Putin’s new presidency be remembered by?
WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING IN RUSSIA IN 2018
Real incomes of Russians fell by 4.7 per cent in July compared to the previous month.
Spending of Russian families on foodstuffs in July drop by more than a thousand roubles or by 12.2 per cent. The average amount of a shopping bill fell to a minimum for two years (496 roubles [approximately USD 7.8]).
The gasoline prices have been growing. From the beginning of the year to June 2018, fuel prices were raised by 7.2 per cent.
Debts of Russian citizens to banks grew by 26 per cent. The number of citizens recognised bankrupt rose by 50 per cent.
The rouble dropped sharply against the dollar. The euro and the dollar grew against the rouble by 6-7 per cent. The Ministry of Finance purchased foreign currency for 1.4 trillion roubles in May-August (twice as much as in the whole of the previous year), thus contributing to the depreciation of the rouble.
The outflow of capital from Russia increased by 2.5 times compared to the first half of 2017r: from USD 8.7 billion to USD 21.5 billion.
The growth of industrial production has been slowing down to a minimum since the beginning of the year. At the same time, [the Russian statistical agency] Rosstat revised statistics for the past year, showing instead of a decline in industrial growth by 2.1 per cent – in strict accordance with the forecast of the Ministry of Economic Development, which Rosstat subordinates to.
The “Yarovaya law” on the storage of data of users of telecom operators and Internet companies [requiring that telecom operators store recordings of all phone conversations, text messages and users’ internet traffic for six months in case they are needed for anti-terror investigations] came into force. Internet providers raised the cost of their subscription fees by 8-10 per cent for the implementation of the law.
According to the secret order of the Federal Security Service, archives of registration cards of the GULAG [Stalin’s camps] prisoners were destroyed.
American actor Steven Seagal known for his roles in the action movies was appointed special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry on humanitarian relations between Russia and the United States.
Valentin Yumashev, son-in-law of Boris Yeltsin [ex President of Russia] and former head of the Kremlin Administration, was appointed Advisor to the President.
The aggregate capital of Russian billionaires increased by USD 14 billion.
Russia’s international isolation grew sharply, increasingly stringent restrictive sanctions were being continuously introduced. Russia’s participation in the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Berlin was terminated pre-term.
WHAT PUTIN DID FOR THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS
He supported the law on raising the retirement age.
He signed a law on increasing VAT to 20 per cent.
He increased the amount of duty for issuing a passport for travelling abroad and driving licence by almost 50 per cent.
He extended a decree banning the imports of a number of foodstuffs from developed countries into Russia. During the entire period of the decree, 26,000 tons of foreign foodstuffs were destroyed.
He introduced additional import duties on American goods and a partial ban on the imports of medicines and medical equipment.
He cut the budget of the national project «Environment» by 320 billion roubles (17 per cent), and by two times for the «Clean Water» section (258 billion instead of 551 billion roubles).
He received new powers allowing him to hide information about a number of companies related to foreign trade activities, despite the current law on state corporations.
He reconstituted the Main Military-Political Administration in the Ministry of Defense of Russia, which is entrusted with the functions of ideological brainwashing of soldiers and officers.
He announced the holding of the military exercises, the largest since 1981, and targeted at working out a great war (about 300,000 servicemen, 36,000 tanks and other armoured vehicles, and more than 1,000 aircraft will take part in the military exercise «Vostok-2018»).
He continued to support Russia’s direct military participation in the conflict in Donbass [East Ukraine]. According to the UN report, over 3,000 civilians were killed, and from 7,000 to 9,000 people were injured in the military operations in Donbas
He signed a decree establishing a new state holiday in Russia in honour of the annexation of Crimea in 1783.
He refused to withdraw the Russian army from Syria. Despite repeated statements on the withdrawal of the troops, this year alone, 21,000 Russian servicemen took part in the military operation in Syria. Only according to official data, for almost three years of participation in the Syrian war, Russia lost 90 servicemen. According to unofficial data, the number of the killed ranges from 300 to 400 people.
He continued to use the civil war in Syria as a testing ground for lethal weapons.
He encourages, despite the legislative ban, creation and use of private military companies in civil wars and armed conflicts.
He has been providing diplomatic support to the Taliban terrorist movement. He has been strengthening the military-technical and diplomatic support of one of the rebel groups in Libya.
Immediately after the inauguration, Putin signed the «May Decree» setting the government’s tasks as follows: increase life expectancy and reduce poverty, become one of the world’s largest economies, make home loans affordable [for ordinary citizens], build housing, diversify exports, build roads, improve the situation with environment, etc. This decree economically and financially justified. There is no money for the realisation of these «good wishes»: the government lacks 8 trillion roubles. Therefore, they will raise taxes – the VAT from 18 to 20 per cent, prices will increase, the retirement age will be increased, real incomes will drop, inflation will grow and high lending rates will be preseved, consumer demand will decrease and pressure on the rouble exchange rate will increase. Thus, the Russian citizens will pay for the May Decrees of the President. And in the end, just like the May Decrees of 2012 – and Putin himself confessed about these in May 2017, that most of the problems were unresolved and «there were more unresolved issues left than what had been done» – the new instructions will for the most part remain only on paper, and their demonstrative implementation will often lead to different perversions and often to deterioration of the situation.
WHAT PUTIN HAS NOT DONE FOR THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS
He did not agree:
— pardon Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov [who has been holding a hunger-strike in a Russian prison demanding to release all Ukrainian prisoners imprisoned in Russia] convicted in Russia for 20 years on unproven allegations of terrorism;
— free theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexei Malobrodsky, General Director of the Gogol Centre [theatre], Yuri Itin, General Director of the Seventh Studio and Sofya Apfelbaum, Director of the Russian Academic Youth Theatre from the home arrest.
He did not interfere (or possibly sanctioned) the following:
— a criminal case fabricated by law enforcement agencies against a group of young people accused of creating an extremist community called «New Greatness»;
— criminal prosecution of dozens of young people across Russia and their conviction for real imprisonment terms on the charges of «extremist» publications in social networks — mainly for putting likes and doing reposts. For the first half of 2018, 762 cases were filed for crimes of an «extremist» nature, and 481 cases were sent to court;
— the arrest on charges of espionage of leading Russian scientists. Viktor Kudryavtsev, a 74-year-old research fellow of the Central Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Roskosmos) is held under investigation in the Lefortovo prison [Moscow];
— the resumption of criminal prosecution (despite the cancellation of the verdict of the court) against the haematologist Elena Misurina. The case is investigated by the same investigator;
— filing by the Investigation Committee of a new criminal case against Yuri Dmitriyev, head of the Karelian branch of the Memorial [human rights society];
— Roskomnadzor’s [Russia’s Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies, Communications and Mass Media] blocking of 18 million IP-addresses used by the Telegram [messanger] and a number of third-party services (Google, Viber, WhatsApp, Amazon, payment systems, flight registration services, and OSAGO [compulsory civil liability insurance for vehicle owners] e-policies). The loss of Russian business from the blockages is estimated at USD 2 billion;
— deprivation of state accreditation of one of the best independent universities of the country — the Moscow Higher School of Social and Economic Sciences («Shaninka» [organised by British social scientist Prof. Sir Teodor Shanin]).
All this represents the policy of the victorious minority, the overwhelming minority of those who benefit from the maintenance of Putin’s system in an unchanged form.
Many people say: «Yes, we see what is happening, but what can be done?» Here are the first urgent steps that the elected President should have taken in the first hundred days (see my presidential programme «Way to the Future»). Such or roughly such priority measures will lead our country to peace and development, and not to poverty, international isolation and wars. Compare what Putin has been doing with what has to be done to bring Russia out of the economic, political and social crisis, and then it becomes clear what the alternative is.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE IN THE FIRST HUNDRED DAYS
1. To formulate the economic development and growth policy, the following legislative packages should be introduced:
— ensuring unconditional inviolability of private property;
— legitimization of large-scale private property obtained as a result of so-called “loans-for-shares” auctions with the help of the system of compensation payments and a special tax (the windfall tax);
— creation of favorable conditions for economic activity (exemption of citizens with low income from the income tax, abolition of five years of VAT for machine-building enterprises and high-tech industries, and a moratorium on tax increases for six years);
— launching of [Yabloko’s] program Land — Housing – Roads: [gratuitous] transfer of land to Russian citizens for construction of their own homes, issuance of relevant interest-free long-term loans and provision of infrastructure through [state budget] revenues from natural resources.
2. Take priority measures to improve political and public life within the country, in particular, on the actual separation of powers, in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and provision of independence of the courts; begin the process of reviewing questionable cases and abolishing unjust sentences imposed under administrative pressure or for mercenary motives. Abolish repressive laws restricting human rights and freedoms.
3. Strengthen the control functions of the parliament (including the control over the activities of the law enforcement agencies and special services, and spending budget funds). Limit the amount of non-public information. Revise the approaches to justifying the classification of expenditures of confidential budget items.
4. End the aggressive confrontation and the war with Ukraine.
Initiate the convocation of the International Conference on the Status of Crimea and fully implement its decisions. Recognise the annexation of the Crimea illegal;
withdraw all units of the Russian armed forces from Donbas. Immediately stop the military, financial, diplomatic and other support of the separatist forces and movements operating in the territory of Ukraine;
to contribute in every possible way to the international peacekeeping forces in terms of ensuring the security of the population of Donbass;
immediately cease the incitement of hatred towards Ukraine and the propaganda of war in the Russian state media;
abandon [Russia’s] policy of «limited sovereignty» in relation to foreign states, including Ukraine and other countries that were formerly part of the USSR.
5. Accept and strictly implement the plan for the phased withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria.
6. Refuse to confront the world, prevent a new cold war and arms race:
— show political will and real readiness for the normalisation of diplomatic, economic and military relations with the European Union, the United States and their allies;
— firmly affirm Russia’s commitment to a policy of peace and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries;
— pursue a policy aimed at the abolition of sanctions and counter-sanctions, return to civilized foreign trade.
But none of this has been done so far. And the first hundred days of Putin’s presidency in 2018 were remembered by [government’s] raising the retirement age, the increase in VAT, the new anti-Russian sanctions and the fall of the rouble, growing isolation [of Russia] and the aggravated conflict with the West, and the hunger strike of [Ukrainian film director] Oleg Sentsov, torture in the penal colonies, criminal cases for publications in social networks… And even the World Cup did not help, everyone has already forgotten about football.