Opposition activists intimidated, the right to demonstrate limited and freedom of expression curtailed. A year after Vladimir Putin began his third term as president, democracy in Russia continues to be undermined.
The day before Putin was sworn in, thousands marched on the streets. Security forces brutally stamped on the demonstrations and the authorities put several of the organisers on trial. The opposition is not a single movement with one voice: different groups propose various alternatives to Putin's policies. But many people are frustrated by a leadership which they believe is guilty of repression, patronage and even of enriching itself.
Russia's human rights record is poor. International human rights organizations have accused the Russian government of persecuting those who disagree with it. The state, it is alleged, is assisted by a repressive security apparatus and a compliant judiciary, as well as by laws that make it easy to take arbitrary action against the opposition. The trials of punk activists Pussy Riot and opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny, as well as raids on NGO offices, are the most obvious examples.
Criticism from foreign political leaders has been muted. None of them wants to risk serious damage to relations with Russia, which has become an important trading partner and energy supplier for many countries.
Does true democracy have a chance in Russia? Is the opposition a force to be reckoned with? Are the EU and the US doing enough to support the development of democracy?
Tell us what you think: Putin’s Russia - Who Cares about Democracy?
Write to us at. Quadriga@dw.de
Sergej Sumlenny – After studying journalism at Moscow University Sumlenny first worked as producer in the ARD Moscow bureau, then for business TV network RBC TV, becoming chief editor of the “World Business” newscast. In 2005 he came to Germany as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, taking a doctorate in political science. Today he is the Germany correspondent of the business journal “Expert.” His book “Nemetskaya System” (The German System), which probes the social and economic mechanisms in German society, was published in 2010.
Lucian Kim – He was the Berlin correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor from 1996 to 2002. He moved to Russia in 2003, where he worked as an editor for The Moscow Times and a correspondent for Bloomberg News, covering energy giant Gazprom and the Putin government. In 2011, he started a blog chronicling the Moscow protest movement on his website, luciankim.com. Currently he is back in Berlin, blogging for the International Herald Tribune and working on new media projects.
Daniel Brössler – Following his time at university in both Munich and Washington, where he took courses in communication studies and politics, Mr Brössler attended journalism school in the Bavarian capital. Later, working as a freelance correspondent for the German news agency DPA, he moved to Bratislava in Slovakia and then to Warsaw, Poland where he was based until 1999. After his return to Germany he worked with the influential daily the Süddeutsche Zeitung at the foreign desk before going east again 2004 – this time as the paper’s correspondent in Moscow. Since 2008 Mr Brössler has been based in Berlin working as a parliamentary correspondent.