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  1. Russia Main Page
  2. The Bolshevik Revolution
  3. Emergence of the USSR
  4. The Berlin Blockade and the Cold War
  5. Dissolution of the USSR
  6. Financial Crisis, Political Upheaval, and Putin's Rise to Power
  7. A Shocking Hostage Situation, a Move Towards Climate Change, and Radiation Poison
  8. Crumbling Relations with the United States and Conflict with Georgia
  9. String of Suicide Bombs Sparks Fear of a Crackdown by Putin
  10. Protests and Unrest Surrounds the 2012 Presidential Election
  11. Russia Blocks U.N. Action in Syria
  12. New Laws Passed against Political Activists, Pussy Riot Arrested
  13. Russia enters the World Trade Organization, Won't Renew Weapons Pact with United States, and Grants Asylum to American Fugitive
  14. Russia Assists with Chemical Weapons Investigation in Syria
  15. International Protests and Multiple Bombings Threaten 2014 Olympics
  16. Russia Annexes Crimea, Experiences Economic Fallout Due to Sanctions
  17. Putin Signs Gas Accord with China, Begins Eurasian Union as Ukraine Fallout Continues
Protests and Unrest Surrounds the 2012 Presidential Election

In Sept. 2011, Putin announced that he would run for president as the candidate of the United Russia party in March 2012 elections. In a deal that was reportedly struck two years ago, Putin and President Medvedev will swap positions, with Medvedev assuming the role as head of the party and thus becoming prime minister. Putin is all but assured to sweep the election and serve another six years as president. The announcement confirmed the widely held assumption that Putin runs the country. Putin announced his plans for the Eurasian Union that same month. This new union would include countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

The Dec. 2011 parliamentary elections sparked protests, mainly from middle-class Russians. International and local monitors condemned the election as fraudulent. United Russia, the party led by Putin, came out on top in the elections, receiving nearly 50 percent of the vote, but they lost 77 seats. Monitors said that United Russia would have lost more seats were it not for ballot-box stuffing and voting irregularities. For example, videos, some taken with cellphones, surfaced on the internet showing local authorities threatening subordinates at polling stations.

The height of the protests came on Dec. 10, when over 40,000 Russians rallied near the Kremlin. It was the largest anti-Kremlin protest since the early 1990s and approved by city authorities, although riot police were on hand. The activists called for Putin's resignation and denounced the election results. Three minority parties in Parliament also complained about the election's outcome, but they were all at odds over what to do about it. President Medvedev called for an inquiry into the election fraud. Meanwhile, Putin accused the United States, singling out Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for instigating the demonstrations when she criticized conduct during the parliamentary elections.

On Dec. 12, billionaire industrialist Mikhail D. Porkhorov announced that he planned to run for president against Putin in 2012. Porkhorov owns many businesses in Russia as well as the New Jersey Nets, the NBA franchise, in the United States. In his announcement, Porkhorov said, "I made a decision, probably the most serious decision in my life: I am going to the presidential election." Many observers questioned if Porkhorov was truly challenging Putin or if he had Putin's approval to run to create an air of legitimacy to the race.

On Dec. 24, around 80,000 people in Moscow protested against the recent parliamentary election. It was the biggest demonstration yet and the first with two high-level figures in attendance. Aleksei L. Kudrin, a former Finance Minister and member of Putin's inner circle, gave a speech in which he expressed his support for the protestors' demands. Mikhail D. Porkhorov, who still plans to run for president against Putin, was also in the crowd. Three days later, Prime Minister Putin ruled out a redo of the parliamentary election, which has been the protestors' chief demand.

In late Feb. 2012, Russian and Ukrainian intelligence worked together to stop an assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin. Two men were arrested in Odessa, the third largest city in Ukraine, after an apartment explosion. A third would-be assassin was killed in the explosion. Officials announced that the three men were sent by a Chechen terrorist leader, Doku Umarov. The report about the plot was released on Russian television on Feb. 26, one week before the presidential election. Putin was expected to win the election, despite his fading popularity and the recent protests. Also on Feb. 26, thousands of protesters demonstrated in downtown Moscow. The activists held hands and wore white ribbons to express their frustration with Putin.

On March 4, 2012, Vladimir Putin won the presidential election, claiming 64% of the vote. The following day, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe challenged the election, saying Putin won because he had no competition and government spending at his disposal. The United States and the European Union called for an investigation into fraud allegations. Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators in Moscow took to the streets, chanting, "Russia without Putin." A similar demonstration happened in St. Petersburg. When protestors refused to leave, police arrested them. In Moscow, 250 people were arrested. In St. Petersburg, 300 demonstrators were detained.

Inspired by the protests against Putin, about 200 young Muscovites ran as independent candidates in municipal March 2012 elections. More than 70 of them won spots on district councils. Even with Putin's supporters occupying many of the other council seats, the elections were a sign that the protests had made an impact in the political system and, perhaps, would continue to do so.

In May of 2012 as Putin prepared to take office for a third time as president, demonstrations turned violent. The day before the inauguration, 20,000 antigovernment demonstrators fought with police near the Kremlin. The fighting included smoke bombs, bottles, and sticks. The following day, while Putin officially took office, the protests continued and police arrested 120 people. Even though antigovernment protests have been going on for months, the demonstrations had been peaceful until now. The violence was a dramatic shift. Dressed in riot gear, police searched cafes and restaurants for protesters. The demonstrators taken into police custody were sent to military draft offices.

Right after Putin was sworn in as president, he nominated Medvedev as Russia's prime minister. Medvedev said that Russia needed "continuity in the government's policies."

On June 8, 2012, Putin signed a law imposing a huge fine on organizers of protests as well as people who take part in them. The law gives Russian authorities the power to crackdown on the anti-government protests which started months ago when Putin announced his decision to run again for President. Four days later, 10,000 protesters took to the Moscow streets in response to the new law. The fine for those marching in protests was set at $9,000, a steep penalty considering the average yearly salary in Russia is $8,500. For organizers of demonstrations, the fine was set at $18,000.

Next: Russia Blocks U.N. Action in Syria
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