Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests [September 11, 2012] [open pdf - 696KB]
"Russia made some uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) came to be dominated by government-approved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed a low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitriy Medvedev, Putin's long-time protégé, was elected president in early 2008 and immediately designated Putin as prime minister. President Medvedev continued Putin's policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin 'tandem' directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia's separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and that Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching some reforms (such as the return of gubernatorial elections) and by holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re-)elected president by a wide margin. The day after his inauguration on May 7, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, the Putin administration appears to be tightening restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33407