After Momentous 2020, Russia’s Putin Enters New Year as Powerful as Ever

MOSCOW – In 2020, the President of Russia will be

Vladimir Putin

has taken courageous steps to consolidate his power at home and extend his stay in power for almost two decades, probably until next year, when the leader of the Kremlin will be able to crush the remaining domestic opposition and strengthen Russia’s influence abroad.

A controversial constitutional amendment adopted this summer may allow Putin to remain in power until 2036. Earlier this month, the Russian President signed a law extending the impunity of former presidents and allowing former leaders of the Kremlin to become senators for life after leaving the Russian parliament.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

Visit of Vladimir Putin on 1. July a polling station at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow to vote in the 2020 constitutional referendum.


Alexei Druzhinin/Tas/Zuma Press

She supported the tightening of restrictions on the internet and made it more difficult to hold political demonstrations. On Friday the Russian legislator approved a draft law in which the Kremlin supports the designation of persons and groups carrying out political activities and receiving funds from abroad as foreign agents and imposes stricter restrictions on them.

Although Putin continues to speculate about his plans for the end of his current term in 2024, the blows show that the Kremlin is preparing to defend itself against threats to its power, according to analysts.

Next year, Putin will appear as a brutal and unfriendly autocrat who is prepared to isolate Russia even further, he said.

Andrei Kolesnikov,

An expert on Russian domestic policy at the Carnegie Center in Moscow. And the more his regime is challenged, the tougher and more sovereign it is. There is no sign of liberalisation, not even a clue.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

In July a demonstration was held in Khabarovsk in support of the governor of the Khabarovsk region, Sergey Furgal, with a poster on the right: Putin has lost my trust.


Igor Volkov/Presse Associée

The adoption in July of amendments to the country’s constitution in the 1990s marked a turning point for the Russian leadership. This reflects a belief in the Kremlin that Putin has popular support to expand his power, although the polls show an erosion of enthusiasm for his leadership, he said.

Tatiana Stanovaya,

Founder of the independent political analysis company R. Policy Analyst.

He could finally realize his dream of creating a real Putin regime with its own constitution and system, she said.

Even when Mr. Putin tried to consolidate his power this year, a dissenting opinion changed into a dissenting opinion. The massive protests in the far east of the city of Khabarovsk last July, following the arrest of the people’s governor of the region, have quickly degenerated into growing dissatisfaction with falling incomes, poor public services, including health care, while the country was hit by the coronavirus, and Putin’s regime.

On Saturday, 29,258 new cases of coronavirus infection were reported in Russia, according to the Russian government. This brought the total number of infections in the country to just over three million – the fourth highest in the world after the United States, India and Brazil.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny took part in the elections on 27 November. In November, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament participated in a video hearing in Brussels.


Olivier Hosle/Shutterstock

Mr Putin was waiting for the protesters and since then the crowd has spread. But the anger reflects a separation between the Kremlin and the average Russian.

The gap between the Kremlin and society is widening, Kolesnikov said.

Russia’s most famous opposition leader,

Alexei Navalny,

seeks to capitalize on public frustration by investigating allegations of government corruption and abuse and by helping to orchestrate anti-Kremlin election strategies in regional elections.

But in August, sir. Navalny fell ill after European doctors said he had been exposed to the nerve gas Novichok, a substance to which only government actors had access, according to analysts and intelligence officials.

Mr Navalny and his supporters believe the Kremlin orchestrated the failed plot to kill him. Moscow denies any involvement. Earlier this month, Putin said that if Russian intelligence wanted to kill Navalny, we’d have done the job.

In response, the European Union has imposed sanctions on members of Mr Putin’s inner circle. Russia reacted the same way.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting on 14 December. September in the seaside resort of Sochi on the Black Sea.


Kremlin/ EPA/Shutterstock

I see that the regime has lost its ability to compromise, to tolerate criticism, and its ability to manage political risks peacefully, Stanovaya said. The only way she knows is to use oppression.

In the coming year, the Kremlin could further undermine the systematic opposition in Russia or opposition groups and political parties tolerated by the government. Meanwhile, opposition groups such as those led by Navalny are suppressed or perhaps destroyed, analysts say.

The Kremlin has denied the accusations that it would try to suppress dissent. In an interview with the state news agency TASS in March, Putin said that the voice of the opponents was crucial.

In any country that is at odds with the ruling authorities, there has always been and always will be a certain part of society, said the Russian leader. And it’s very good that there are such people.

On the world stage this year, Putin gave a political lifeline to the beleaguered Belarusian president,

Alexander Lukashenko,

which, since the mistaken vote on the ninth. August is faced with protests demanding his resignation. The Russian Head of State promised his Belarusian counterpart military and financial support.

Mr Putin also negotiated a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in November. The agreement strengthens the Kremlin’s status as a regional energy broker and gives it influence over both countries. Russia already had a military base in Armenia, with which it also has economic ties, but the peace treaty for the first time places Russian troops in Azerbaijan.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

Russian soldier near the town of Stepanakert in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on the 29th. November.


Karen Minasyan/France Press/Getty Images

Most of the former Soviet states are our allies, Putin told the National Security Council in August. Our interests coincide in many respects, both economically and politically. This is undoubtedly one of the priorities of our foreign policy.

In an interview, the spokesperson for the Kremlin said…

Dmitry Peskov

said that this year’s crises, as well as Western sanctions and the current hostile climate, require decisive action from Moscow.

Crises have forced the president to make difficult and quick decisions, he said. Overall, we are of course convinced that the main goal was to maintain stability in all directions [and] this has been maintained.

Russia has concluded agreements to sell its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries. Analysts say that this could enable Moscow to exercise soft power over the host countries, especially in South America and the Middle East.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

A shipment of 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Buenos Aires on Thursday.


Esteban Collazo/ Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Next year, according to analysts, Putin could demand repayment of the aid he granted. Lukashenko will probably have to give in to the Kremlin’s years of efforts to bring his new neighbour closer to his job. The governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan are likely to treat Russia with great respect as they are counting on Mr Putin to prevent the resumption of hostilities in the South Caucasus.

Tensions with the West are expected to continue this year, especially with the arrival of the Biden government. This month’s revelations about an alleged Russian cyber attack on the U.S. federal government further strained relations between Moscow and Washington.

But the hostility towards the West could, according to his followers at home, play to Putin’s advantage.

The perception is that if Putin was bad for Russia, he wouldn’t be so attacked, he said.

Sergei Markov,

the director of the Kremlin-friendly Moscow Institute of Political Studies. The more the enemy is unleashed, the further we move on to a better future. There’s nothing special for Putin here. It’s a natural progression to attack a successful Russian president.'s-Putin-Enterss-New-Year-as-Powerful.5.jpeg

Live broadcast of Vladimir Putin’s annual end-of-year press conference on a screen installed on the façade of a Moscow hotel on 17 December is in place.


Anton Novoderezhkin/Tas/Zuma Press

-Nonna Fomenko contributed to this article.

Email Ann M. Simmons at [email protected].

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