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The 5 Biggest Events That Shaped Putin's 2013

Published: January 8, 2014 (Issue # 1792)


Looking back at the main events that shaped Russia over the past 12 months, it is clear that 2013 will go down in history as President Vladimir Putin's "anti-year."

It was in 2013 that the powers that be not only embraced anti-smoking and anti-alcohol policies, but they also showed that they are anti-gay, anti-children, anti-chocolate and even anti-Halloween.

Perhaps new efforts by Putin to spread anti-American sentiment was predictable, but his decision to portray Russia as anti-Big Brother by granting asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden took many by surprise including Putin himself, who told reporters in Finland in late June that Russia was "completely surprised" by Snowden's trip to Moscow. How, then, does Putin explain reports that Snowden spent several days in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong just before he flew to Moscow?

Furthermore, Putin's credentials in a nationwide anti-corruption drive took a hit last week when he pardoned former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky. His arrest in 2003 and 10-year combined jail terms have been widely interpreted as the Kremlin's punishment for the businessman's political ambitions aimed at Putin.

As it turns out, you can be as corrupt as you want if you are a friend of Putin, but if you are his enemy you get the "a-thief-must-sit-in-jail" treatment at least until Putin needs to improve his image before the Sochi Olympics. In any event, Putin's selectively ruthless legal assault on Khodorkovsky brought new meaning to the expression attributed to Spanish dictator Francisco Franco: "My friends get everything, while my enemies get the law."

Here's a look at the top five political events of 2013 and how they shaped Russia.

1. The year of the ban.

Russia set a record for the number of bans this year. A ban on smoking in public places, enacted in June, was long-needed. But few actually believe that this law will make it any easier for nonsmokers to breathe as they walk down a crowded street or sit on a park bench. After all, smokers make up 40 percent of the population, and finding creative ways to skirt the law is a centuries-old Russian tradition, many would argue - particularly when it involves a highly addictive habit.

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